An increase in calls to national and local sexual assault centers is being attributed to the testimony of professor Christine Blasey Ford, who detailed her allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh in a televised Senate confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court nominee.
InterAct of Wake County, a group that helps victims of sexual assault, said the organization has seen a 19 percent increase in calls to its sexual assault hotline compared to this time last year.
Counselors said that Ford’s testimony, immediately followed by Kavanaugh’s statements that refuted Ford’s allegations, has prompted women around the country to share their own stories of sexual assault and to seek help.
“Just today, I think we’ve had seven calls from people who are calling because it’s been a very triggering event,” Allison Strickland, the chief development officer at InterAct, said after Ford’s testimony on Thursday. “They are specifically referencing this national event and talking about experiences that happened many years ago.”
Victims say the testimony has triggered memories of their own encounters from years ago. Dr. Jennifer Freyd, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, said the confirmation hearing will affect sexual assault victims differently.
“(Ford) was clearly emotional, and her pain was very visible,” Freyd said. “That, too, could easily remind people of how they felt at the same time. Although those effects may be there, she was also very inspiring.”
Freyd said for many survivors, the inspiration of seeing a woman share her personal story of assault can lead to them to pick up the phone and call a hotline. But some call because of the distress the national story has caused them.
“One thing we saw was Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony, where she described (the assault) in pretty graphic detail, and a lot of people have had experiences similar to that and it’s just the way human memory works,” Freyd said.
Jennifer Condrey, a Wake County teacher, said Ford’s testimony resonated with her.
Condrey shared her story of sexual assault at a news conference Friday on Bicentennial Mall in front of the Legislative Building, organized in part by the Carolina Peace Center.
“I screamed and I yelled ‘no’ over and over, but his roommate who was there, conveniently turned up the music as if on cue,” Condrey said at the news conference. “You know what? When I listened to Dr. Ford’s testimony yesterday, and she mentioned the loud music, I was there. I know. It sent shivers up my spine.”
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network estimates that one in six women experience sexual assault.
How to get help
Here is a list of phone numbers you can call if you need help in dealing with a sexual assault experience:
▪ Interact of Wake County: 919-828-7740
▪ North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault: 919-871-1015
▪ Orange County Rape Crisis Center: 866-935-4783
▪ Durham Crisis Response Center: 919-403-6562