Cleveland Rape Crisis Center receives record messages and calls week of Kavanaugh testimony

October 1, 2018

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center receives record messages and calls week of Kavanaugh testimony

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center received a record number of texts, phone calls and online messages Friday, after Christine Blasey Ford testified that she was sexually assaulted by nominated Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

On Friday, there were 60 contacts. All week of the hearing -- Sept. 23 through Sept. 29 -- there were 191 contacts, averaging 27 per day. That’s compared to a typical 19 contacts per day in 2018. 

President and CEO Sondra Miller said calls and messages are similar to the ones the rape crisis center gets every day -- survivors of sexual assault struggling to deal with reconciling events today with the traumas of their past. That means working through flashbacks and emotions.

#DearSurvivor We believe you. We hear you. We see you. We support you. https://t.co/0sc2xKeu3n— CLE Rape Crisis Ctr (@clevelandrcc) September 30, 2018

When Anthony Sowell, nicknamed the “Cleveland Strangler” was convicted of killing 11 women in 2011, the rape crisis center saw a spike in contacts. The #MeToo movement, which gained mainstream attention last fall, also led to an increased number of messages and calls, for months straight.

Headlines and social media comments can be difficult for survivors of sexual assault. Survivors may be hurt by comments from coworkers, friends or family about Ford’s testimony and sexual assault in general, Miller said. Some people wonder whether it’s too late to file a police report. 

Miller said the increase in people contacting the rape crisis center is not reflective of how many people are reaching out to law enforcement. 

Miller said between 2000 and 2015, the center averaged about 7 to 9 calls and messages a day. That jumped to 13 a day in 2016. In 2017, the center averaged 17 calls and messages a day.

“I do not think the incidents of sexual assault are any greater than they were 10 or 20 years ago,” she said. “I think people are more comfortable coming forward.”

Miller said the rape crisis center was prepared for the increase, with staff and 80 to 100 trained volunteers on its team.  

The news events also lead to an increase in people wanting to help -- volunteering time or requesting prevention programs. Miller said the rape crisis center received a number of donations made in honor of Ford. 

To see a Facebook Live conversation about the Kavanaugh hearings with Miller, click here.

If you need help 

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Miller’s first piece of advice is to turn off the news and log out of social media.

“Setting that healthy boundary for yourself is important,” she said. “There’s only so much we can take in.” 

You can also call, text or chat online with Cleveland Rape Crisis Center volunteers and staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The crisis center started its online chat portal in April 2016.

“We were shocked at how quickly people started using it,” Miller said.

Text messages and online chats can serve as a bridge for people scared of losing anonymity or if they’ll get the support they need from the center. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center does not require identifying information. 

Call or text (216) 619-6192 or (440) 423-2020 to reach the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s crisis and support hotline. To find the online chat, click here.

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