Services & FAQ

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IowaARCh is a safe & supportive space for survivors of abuse, stalking, and sexual violence in Iowa, and their loved ones.

We offer real-time, online, text-based support and referrals in multiple languages.

If you’re not ready to chat yet, feel free to browse our Resources section for other ideas and services.


Image: Question mark     BASICS

Does chat mean on the phone?

“Chat” can mean different things to different people. In the case of ARCh, “chat” means online, text-based communication – kind of like instant messaging.

Can I chat via text message? Is there an app I can download for my phone?

Right now we can only chat via instant messaging on a web browser. We are not able to chat via text message, and we do not have an app (yet).

What does ARCh offer?

ARCh offers a safe & supportive space to discuss your experiences and figure out next steps. We will listen to your personal story,  and, if you want, help you find resources going forward.

What DOESN’T ARCh offer?

ARCh advocates cannot offer case management services, legal advice, or therapy. Because we are communicating online, we cannot provide medical or legal advocacy in person, like most traditional advocates can. If you would like help finding people and organizations who can offer these services, we are happy to assist you.

What hours are you available?

Beginning January 1st, 2016, our operating hours are 9am-9pm every day.

On weekdays, adult advocates are online from 9am-5pm and youth advocates are online from 3pm to 9pm.

On weekends, our advocates are a mix of adults and youth throughout the day.


Image: A lock and key     SAFETY

Is it safe to chat with an ARCh advocate?

*TO GET OUT OF THE ARCh WEBSITE QUICKLY, CLICK THE “LEAVE WEBSITE NOW” BUTTON AT THE TOP OF YOUR SCREEN.*

We encourage all users to read our Privacy page to learn more about how to use technology safely. If you are confident that only you and/or people you trust have access to the personal computer, phone, or tablet you are using, ARCh is probably safe for you to use. If you are worried that someone you do not trust may have access to your device, please read our Privacy page for tips on how to use the service safely and spot signs of cyberstalking. If you think ARCh is not safe for you to use right now, there are a lot of other resources in our Resources section that may be better for your needs right now. We trust you to determine when and if it is safe to chat with an advocate.

What information does ARCh gather from me?

At the beginning of each chat, you are asked to answer a few survey questions, including what you want us to call you (first name or nickname), your personal pronouns, your county, what language you want to chat in, and demographics such as gender, race, and age. We are required to ask some of this information for funding purposes, and the rest of it simply helps us serve you better.

After each chat, you will be asked to answer a few questions about how the advocate did. This information will be given to supervisors so they can give feedback to advocates.

Initially, the transcript of your chat will be saved for quality control purposes. And because of the nature of the Internet, we cannot avoid collecting your IP address. However, we do not keep this information – we regularly purge our records of IP addresses and chat transcripts for privacy reasons.

What information does ARCh NOT gather from me?

ARCh does not gather your personal information such as full name, address, or date of birth. This is to keep the chats as anonymous as possible. Beyond the required pre-chat survey questions, you do not need to give us any information you do not want to share. We also regularly purge records of IP addresses and transcripts as a safety & privacy measure.


Image: two people chatting     ADVOCATES

Who are the advocates?

Our advocates are a mix of adults and youth in Iowa with varied interests and personalities. All advocates are committed to supporting survivors, and receive training both through ARCh curriculum and through IowaCASA and ICADV certification. For more information about our individual advocates, click here.

What languages do advocates speak?

All languages spoken by our advocates may not be available at all hours. Currently, advocates are available to chat in English, Spanish, Arabic, & Somali.

What if my advocate isn’t doing a good job?

If you feel your advocate is not serving you well, we encourage you to let them know during the chat. They are here to support you, and your feedback will help them do that.

You can also provide feedback during the end-of-chat survey. This information is sent to supervisors, who will use it to help advocates learn and grow.

Supervisors also regularly review chat transcripts to ensure advocates are providing quality services.

Can I meet my advocate in person? Can I know their real name? Can I know their story?

For the safety and privacy of our advocates, we limit the identifiable information we make public. Advocates are there for you – it is about you, not them. If you are concerned about whether your advocate understands your experience, talk to them about it or give us feedback during the post-chat survey or here.

Can I chat with the same advocate every time I use ARCh?

We understand that if you have talked with one advocate before, you may feel that they are the one who can best serve you. However, that advocate may not be online whenever you want to chat, and we do not want you to feel dependent on that person. All advocates are highly trained and able to support you.

We understand if you do not want to tell your story all over again each time you chat with us. Feel free to start wherever you want, including just what has changed since your last chat.

Are advocates mandatory reporters?

No, advocates are not mandatory reporters while they are working as advocates.


Image: A chat bubble with a cursor arrow     USING ARCh

Who can use ARCh?

Anyone in Iowa can use ARCh. Whether you have experienced assault or abuse, or are concerned about a loved one who has, we are here to chat with you. If the experience you want to chat about occurred in Iowa, but you are now somewhere else, you can also use ARCh. If you want to chat about a friend or loved one in Iowa who may have experienced abuse, stalking, or assault, feel free to chat with us no matter where you are located.

I’m a service provider. Can I chat with ARCh?

If you are a service provider looking for resources for a client, we are happy to chat with you and help you find what you’re looking for. If you simply have questions about how the chatline works or are interested in creating a similar service at your agency, please do not use the chatline to make these inquiries. Please e-mail alexandranassif[at]muawi[dot]org instead.

Can I use ARCh on my phone?

ARCh should work on computers, tablets, and smartphones.

What happens when I click “chat”?

First, you will be given a couple of questions to answer so we can best serve you, including what name you would like us to call you and what language you want to chat in.

Next, an advocate will chat with you about whatever you would like support with. The advocate may ask questions to better understand your story. The advocate will also provide information so you can make informed decisions going forward, and refer you to additional organizations that can assist you. Advocates are here to support you, your story, and your decisions, so you will always have the control over the conversation.

When the chat is over, you will again be given a few questions to answer so that we can make sure we supported you well.

Intentional abuse of the chatline (for example, trolling or harassment of advocates) will result in termination of the chat.

What if I don’t want to answer some of the questions on the pre-chat or post-chat survey?

A few of our survey questions – such as what name you would like us to call you – are required so that we can best serve you. Other information is required so we can maintain our funding. However, if you are not comfortable answering a non-required question, feel free to leave it blank. If you have feedback about any of the questions, please let us know in the post-chat survey or here.

Is there a limit to how much I can chat?

We are not yet active 24 hours a day, but feel free to chat with our advocates as much or as little as you want during our hours of operation (9am-9pm).

What if I want to chat in a language that is not available right now?

If no advocate who speaks your language is available at the moment, try checking back at a different time if you can. If your language is not currently offered, please let us know your thoughts here! We are hoping to expand our staff, and we will use your feedback to help determine what the needs of users are.

What if I’m not in Iowa?

If the experience you want to discuss happened in Iowa, or if the loved one you are concerned about is in Iowa, we are happy to chat with you.

If your experience or concern has nothing to do with Iowa, we encourage you to seek support from those who could offer you more appropriate resources for your location. If you want to chat online, LoveIsRespect is a great national 24/7 chatline we encourage you to check out. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers chat services from 7AM-2AM (CST). The Crisis Text Line also offers 24/7 texting support for all kinds of issues.

I just have some questions about my relationship, or I’m not sure if what happened was that bad…can I still chat with an advocate?

Absolutely! We can chat about any questions or concerns you might have, major or minor. It doesn’t need to be a certain level of “bad” to matter to us.

Talking about my situation is really hard for me. Can I take a break and come back later?

Of course! Discussing traumatic events can be triggering or distressing, and we understand if you need a break. You are welcome to leave and come back, no questions asked.

Do you have to be a certain age to use ARCh?

ARCh does not have an age limit. We trust you to know if using the chat service is appropriate for your needs.

Is ARCh only for women?

Anyone of any gender can use ARCh, because people of all genders can be survivors and concerned loved ones.

I don’t identify as a “survivor” – I describe my experience another way. Will ARCh support me?

Absolutely! Terminology can be very tricky. Whether you identify as a survivor, victim, person who has experienced violence, bystander, concerned loved one, something else, or nothing in particular, we respect your decisions when it comes to self-identification. If you are struggling with how to describe your experience, feel free to chat with us about that as well.

Can I use transcripts of my chats with ARCh in legal proceedings?

We cannot provide you with transcripts for legal or any other purposes. We encourage you to document your experiences of abuse or assault in ways that are legally admissible, such as police reports, medical reports, photographs, videos, e-mails, notes, diaries, and other written records.

What if I want to chat after hours?

If you want to chat after hours but it is not urgent, please use the chat box to send us a message, which we will see when we launch the service the next day.

If you need to chat urgently, we encourage you to use LoveIsRespect, which has different hours from us and also offers text-messaging communication. You can chat with the National Domestic Violence Hotline between 7AM and 2AM. Crisis Text Line also offers 24/7 text-messaging for users in crisis. If talking on the phone is an option for you, please click here to find 24/7 hotlines in Iowa that can help you when we are offline.

If you or another person is in danger of imminent harm, call 911.