Since Palo Alto professor Christine Blasey Ford came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, victims of sexual violence have spent days tweeting, writing open letters and speaking publicly about the difficulties of reporting their attacks.
Hastags such as #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport erupted on social media as a way for people to publicly share their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Now, many believe Ford’s testimony Thursday has further motivated victims to speak out. The National Sexual Assault Hotline, for instance, saw an estimated 147 percent increase in calls.
Millions of people watched the emotional testimony from both Ford and Kavanaugh, among them victims of sexual violence. Clinical social worker Eva Roodman says such victims are reminded of their past experiences.
"A lot of women are like, 'Oh my god, I now can talk about this.’ Or, 'I now want to discuss something that I’ve never felt like I’ve been able to discuss before.'"
Roodman, a counselor with a nonprofit organization in Palo Alto that serves women, says Ford’s decision to go public with sexual assault allegations triggers memories of sexual violence for other victims and motivates them to come forward.
"Women are feeling great about her talking about it," Roodman said.
According to the national sexual assault hotline, "in the same time period since Ford went public with her allegation, calls to the sexual assault hotline are up 45.6 percent over the same period last year."
The Crisis Text Line reports that talk of sexual abuse on its service has doubled since October 2017, with some of the common words to show up in conversations being "flashback," "memory" and "scarred."
"I don’t think women ever get over being sexually assaulted," said Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss, who this week publicly shared her own story about being sexually assaulted. "You can talk about it. I’m glad I’ve been able to talk about it, really been motivated by this."
On Thursday, Kniss reiterated that she found Ford credible.
"That really took courage, and there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house, to be honest," she said.
Roodman says the lack of belief in Ford’s story by some lawmakers during Thursday’s hearings might also trigger anxiety in many victims of sexual violence and could dissuade a person from reporting it.