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“On chat, people reveal way more than they do on the phone, and that is a huge opportunity for us to start exploring topics surrounding assault and coercion without making the visitor feel completely vulnerable.”Conversely, the greater anonymity of the chat system makes it more difficult to gather information that can help provide the best support.

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I let visitors know that the chat is anonymous and they do not have to share anything with me they do not want to.I ask if they are safe and if they have any privacy or safety concerns. Sometimes, visitors share what is on their mind right away, while others take longer to open up. RAINN was one of the first victim-support organizations to launch an online hotline back in 2007.“We are catching young survivors and people who say they could never talk about this out loud.Online communication gives them the space to control the conversation and put down their own narrative about what happened.”Marsh said that a vast majority of the online hotline visitors are between 13 and 24 years old.More than half are talking about abuse or assault that took place five or more years ago.

RAINN has also found that the chat system appeals to people who have been through particularly violent trauma or experienced a type of assault or abuse with a higher stigma, such as incest—40 percent discuss an attack that was perpetrated by a family member.

The Hotline now sees 1,000 to 1,500 chats a month, half of which come from mobile devices.

Pinero said the ability to communicate silently is key, since visitors often cannot discuss sexual coercion and assault on the phone when their husband or kids are in the house, or in public.“It is hard to have a discussion about how your husband makes you have sex in ways you don’t want to,” he said.

You can't hear the inflection in someone’s voice that this is a difficult moment.

Conveying empathy is much more difficult.”Chat-based conversations require more time to build trust and rapport.

While it might seem that online chats would be more “scalable” than phone hotlines, this is not the case, at least not yet.