There are plenty of reasons why sexual assault victims stay silent about their abuse. But there’s a catalyst that spurs many to come forward.
When one person alleging sex assault faces the glare of the national spotlight, many more speak out in private.
That’s what staffers keep noticing at RAINN — the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. The nonprofit runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline, where calls have spiked since professor Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of assault. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the claim.
On Thursday, the day Ford testified in front of senators and the whole country, the sex assault hotline saw a 201 percent increase in calls compared with a typical day, RAINN spokeswoman Sara McGovern said.
Early estimates by RAINN on Thursday indicated the hotline had experienced a 147 percent increase in call volume compared with an average day. The organization updated that figure Friday.
Since the advent of the #MeToo movement, many victims have had to cope with a near-constant barrage of news reports about abusers and their victims. And that can be overwhelming, said Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist with Refresh Mental Health.
“It’s happening everywhere and all the time,” she said. “It’s kind of depressing.”
The recent surge in calls started before Ford’s public testimony. This past weekend — the first full weekend after Ford’s identity was revealed — “there was a 57 percent uptick in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline from Friday to Sunday compared to an average Friday to Sunday,” McGovern.
“We often see an increase in calls when sexual assault stories are in the news. For example, following the (Harvey) Weinstein case and the #MeToo movement, the Hotline saw a 46 percent increase,” McGovern said.
In fact, since the #MeToo movement spread across the country almost a year ago, “the demand for RAINN’s services has been off the charts,” McGovern said.
“Our victim service programs went from helping about 15,000 victims per month to helping about 22,000 per month,” she said.
Because the hotline is confidential and anonymous, McGovern said she can’t provide details on the calls themselves.
She said abuse victims or anyone struggling with news about sexual violence can find help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE or visiting online.rainn.org.