JACKSONVILLE, FL- As the #MeToo movement has swept the nation, more and more women as well as men are coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment, assault or rape.
Here locally the Women’s Center of Jacksonville says they have seen a 53 percent increase in calls to their rape crisis hotline compared to this time last year. The women’s center wants survivors to know, they believe you and they are ready to help.
It began with an explosive article about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. But it quickly became a moment of solidarity for survivors of sexual violence and #MeToo swept across the internet.
"We are seeing this movement as a really wonderful thing for women to communicate the things that have happened to them and they felt shamed for. That shame does not lie with them," says Theresa Miles the executive director of the Women's Center of Jacksonville.
As the hashtags increased, the phones at the Women’s Center of Jacksonville began ringing.
A 53 percent increase in calls to the Rape Crisis Hotline. Many were calls from adults who had experienced sexual violence in their childhoods.
"We’ve had individuals in their 50s and 60s who have never told a soul and lived with it their entire lives and that is truly why we are here to help those individuals heal," says Miles.
They want to smash the feelings of guilt or isolation and replace that with feelings of hope and love. With the increase in calls, they are expanding to their new center off Emerson which they are hoping to open in April. It will be a place of counseling and a place to help collect evidence after a rape or sexual assault.
A needed expansion as more and more survivors are finding their voice.
"I am a survivor not only of sexual harassment but of rape, so I understand the movement and I was happy to be a part of it and it has been a powerful thing for us that are survivors," tells Lise Everly the President of the board of directors for the Women's Center of Jacksonville.
Lise says there is no judgment inside these walls, she fully understands why survivors often don’t speak up.
"It happened to me when I was 17 and I didn't talk about it until I was 50. So I understand how the shame can keep you from speaking about it for a long time," says Everly.
But counselors want survivors to know, it doesn't matter if it happened days ago or decades ago – they are here to help.
"It is truly a community issue, it is not a man’s issue not a woman’s issue. It can happen to anyone at any time in their lives," says Miles.
The Rape Crisis Hotline: 904-721-7273
To donate: http://womenscenterofjax.org