Calls to sexual assault hotlines skyrocket after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony

    Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

    Survivors of sexual assault felt the impact of Thursday’s emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Doctor Christine Blasey Ford spent several hours, describing allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

    Blasey Ford said the alleged assault took place when they were both in high school, more than 30 years ago in Montgomery County.

    Kavanaugh strongly denied the accusations when it was his turn to speak to the committee.

    RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, says calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline were up 147 percent on Thursday.

    Overall, a spokesperson for RAINN said they’ve seen of 45.6 percent uptick in calls compared to this same time period last year.

    And last weekend, from Friday to Sunday, RAINN says calls were up 57 percent compared to an average weekend.

    Local organizations that advocate on behalf of sexual assault survivors noticed a similar trend.

    “Today, what’s been going through my mind is how many times our hotline rang,” said Judy Hanley, who is the Executive Director of LAWS in Loudoun County. “It rang an unprecedented amount.”

    LAWS, also known as the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter, has been helping adults and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault since 1984.

    “With the #MeToo movement, yes we have experienced an increase in calls. But nothing like today,” said Hanley.

    She said Thursday’s testimony, for some survivors, triggered traumatic memories.

    “It brought back feelings they thought they had put behind them. They thought they were healed and now they’re triggered and they’re calling out for help again,” she said. “Or, people who have never reported their sexual assault and what they’re trying to do is reach out for the first time and they see the courage of others who have come forward and they want to do that as well.”

    On social media, RAINN reminded people that hearing about sexual violence in the news can be extremely difficult for sexual assault survivors. The organization urged survivors to take care of themselves during this tough time and offered a list of resources where survivors can find support.

    The National Sexual Assault Hotline is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1-800-656-HOPE.

    LAWS in Loudoun County also has a crisis hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That number is 703-777-6552.

    “I think what’s really important to know is that LAWS has a different definition of sexual assault than the criminal code. To us, a victim of sexual assault is anyone who believes they are a victim. Anyone that has experienced any unwanted sexual contact without explicit consent,” said Hanley. “LAWS is an agency that doesn’t turn anyone away.”

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