Senate hearing exposes local sexual assault wounds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

The raw emotions exposed during testimony at last week’s hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have opened wounds for sexual assault survivors nationwide.

The wounds – some fresh and some old but never healed – were also laid bare here in Wood County.

“We definitely know when something brings sexual assault into the forefront,” said Kathy Mull, executive director of The Cocoon in Bowling Green.

The calls flooded in from survivors who had remained quiet after past trauma, and from those who suffered recent assault.

“We definitely have seen an increase in calls coming in,” Mull said on Monday. “It brings it out of the shadows.”

The Cocoon’s hotline has been getting more calls, and the Cocoon staff has responded to victim reports at the hospital, to counselors, and on campus.

“They want to have a conversation with someone they feel safe with,” Mull said of the sexual assault survivors finding themselves moved to share their experiences.

Typically, the Cocoon sees about 75 sexual assault survivors a year. As the Senate Judiciary hearing was televised last week, 24 calls from local people came into the Cocoon hotline.

“That’s definitely a jump from our average,”  Mull said.

These aren’t strangers from thousands of miles away, Mull stressed. “They are people in our neighborhoods,” she said of the callers motivated to seek help last week.

Since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, a spike in calls had been noticed at the National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

On Thursday, the day Ford testified in front of senators and the whole country, the sex assault hotline saw a 201 percent increase in calls compared with a typical day.

Since the advent of the MeToo movement, there has been a frequent barrage of news reports about abusers and their victims. That can be overwhelming for victims.

Since the MeToo movement spread across the country almost a year ago, RAINN’s victim service programs went from helping about 15,000 victims per month to helping about 22,000 per month.

Last week’s televised hearings brought back painful memories for many women.

“If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, you are watching this very carefully,” Mull said. “It was difficult to watch. I could only take it in small doses.”

Survivors will also be playing close attention to the results of the hearings and subsequent FBI investigation.

“It’s hard enough to speak out as a sexual assault survivor,” Mull said. Women will be looking to see if Ford’s claims are met with empathy or judgment.

“Will it be – we don’t believe survivors? Or we’re not taking them seriously? Or my voice doesn’t matter? That sends a strong message to a sexual assault survivor.”

So much rests on this decision, Mull said.

“We have a chance to send a clear message that sexual assault is never OK,” she said.

A local hotline is available for survivors of sexual assault at 419-373-1730.

“Our advocates are available 24/7,” Mull said. “We really want to be a safe place where people can share.”

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