JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Local and national sexual assault hotlines are being flooded with calls amid the controversy surrounding Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) tweeted Friday morning that the number of people helped by the National Sexual Assault hotline was 201 percent above average on Thursday, the same day Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On the First Coast, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville’s 24-hour rape recovery hotline received 23 calls in the past 24 hours. That’s a 44 percent increase from this time last year.
“People are feeling more comfortable reporting,” Michelle Gilliam with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville said.
Gilliam said the increase in calls continued a pattern the center has seen since the emergence of the “Me Too Movement” and the spread of the hashtag on social media #WhyIDidntReport.
“We’ve seen actually a 43 percent increase of calls to the 24-hour rape recovery hotline in a year,” Gilliam said.
The calls to the hotline are routed to team members’ cell phones so they can answer at all times of day. Once someone makes a call, they are provided with access to resources like counseling, treatment and medical exams, should they be desired.
Gilliam said not all calls to the hotline are about a recent assault, rather some are reporting an incident from years ago.
“Women and men are feeling more comfortable coming forward with the stories of their sexual assault,” she said. “And it’s really giving them a voice that they may not have had before.”
As to why some survivors wait years before reporting their assault, Gilliam said there used to sense of shame or blame associated with sexual assault.
“[People would say] ‘why did you wear such a thing? Why did you get in the car with someone? Why were you drinking or why were you doing such and such.’ And that culture has really changed in our society and we’re not victim blaming anymore,” Gilliam said.
The Women’s Center of Jacksonville’s 24-hour rape recovery hotline is available to anyone wanting to report a sexual assault, not just women. The number is 904-721-7273.