When Sexual Assault is in the News, Survivors Turn to RAINN

When high profile sexual assault cases are in the news, thousands of survivors and their loved ones contact RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline. For some, this is the first time they are sharing their story. For others, the support specialists on the hotline are the only people in their lives who they know will listen and believe them.

This happened during the Cosby case and again when Harvey Weinstein’s abuse was revealed. But last fall, following the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, more people than ever before reached out to RAINN for support. Many survivors said that Ford’s story sounded similar to their own—and they felt like they too were on the witness stand that day.

A record number of staff and volunteers answered calls and chats that day, as did the people at the 1,000 local sexual assault service providers that we partner with, but the number of survivors and loved ones reaching out to talk was unprecedented. By the end of the day, there were 84 people waiting to talk to a support specialist on the hotline—a 338% increase in demand.

Judith, who was working that day as a hotline shift manager, answered countless calls. “Visitors shared how the hearings were impacting them and bringing up memories of their own experiences. Some people felt angry because they felt nothing would change, others felt happy that someone was finally sharing something that has happened to them as well. Many people shared their stories for the very first time and were looking to be heard and get access to any resources in their local area.”

Usually, when hotline demand goes up following a news story, the spike lasts just a few days. But this time was different. Since the Kavanaugh hearing, RAINN’s victim service programs have consistently helped more than 25,000 survivors and their loved ones each month—up from about 15,000 a month just two years earlier.

Sharing an experience of sexual assault can be really hard, especially if it’s for the first time. RAINN’s support specialists are here for survivors and loved ones to listen and provide resources. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is free, confidential, 24/7, and available by phone at 800.656.HOPE (4673) in English and Spanish, and online at online.rainn.org or in Spanish at rainn.org/es. Find more resources at rainn.org, such as Tips for Survivors on Consuming Media and Self-Care Ideas.

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