New Statewide Legal Helpline For Sexual Assault Victims

Every hour in Texas a person is raped. Currently that means over 1.4 million women and nearly 400,000 men have been sexually assaulted. About 82% of those rapes however are unreported. For that silent number of victims who are looking for confidential help there's a new legal line to call.

“Rape is rape.”

That’s how Senator Rodney Ellis feels about sexual assault. In his early days as a senator, he worked on a bill to change a Texas law that allowed men to use “that’s my wife” as their defense against an accusation of rape.

“Whether you’re raping your boyfriend, you’re ex-boyfriend, your girlfriend, your ex-girlfriend, wife whatever, rape is rape.”

Now Senator Ellis is advocating the new free “Sexual Assault Legal Services and Assistance,” or SALSA helpline. 

“Justice means more than just putting a perpetrator behind bars although that is an important thing to do. ‘SALSA’ attorneys are able to help victims address the often overlooked after-effects of sexual assault including safety; privacy; finances; education; citizenship status; housing and many other factors.”

Lorin Leatherwood is a sexual assault survivor. When she was raped ten years ago at age 15, she didn’t have access to this new service, but she knows it would have helped a lot.

“The stress that would have been taken off our shoulders and the hours that we would’ve gotten back to try to help me recover emotionally instead of having to spend all this time trying to figure out how to get through the legal system.”

Lorin Leatherwood
Sexual assault survivor Lorin Leatherwood at the Houston Area Women’s Center promoting the new Sexual Assault Legal Services and Assistance(SALSA) helpline

But Leatherwood chose to speak out. The majority of victims don’t.

Rebecca White is President of the Houston Area Women’s Center, where victims can get help. She hopes this helpline will give that quiet majority a place to vocalize their problems legal or otherwise.

“Too many are suffering in silence in our community and it’s not ok, it’s just not ok. Survivors of sexual assault have other needs that have heretofore not been adequately addressed in our state and that’s why SALSA is such a great addition to the toolbox that we have to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”

As a survivor, Lorin Leatherwood knows that just getting in touch with the women’s center made the world of difference for her.

“I had literally thought that I was going to be alone forever and having made that phone call to the women’s center, I realized that I should have made the call sooner because people are only here to help and they’re only here to support.”

The new statewide legal helpline is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number to call is 888.343.4414. If you’re a victim of sexual assault here is more information on the helpline and the Houston Area Women’s Center.