Politics & Government

Uptick in crisis hotline calls comes even as many stand by Kavanaugh

You are not alone.

That’s the message being shared across the country, as crisis hotlines see an uptick of calls and needs triggered by sexual assaults and harassment cases in the news this year.

“We’ve seen an increase in calls this year, about 13 percent, in calls and hospital visits, versus last year,” said Fran McQueen, manager of marketing and communication at The Women’s Center of Tarrant County. “I’m not sure if there are more cases of sexual assault or there are just more people reporting.

“It’s never too late to reach out,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether the assault happened 30 years ago or yesterday. It’s never too late and it’s never your fault.”

Some women are responding to the latest #MeToo story, which has been dominating conversations on social media and in coffee shop talk alike, regarding testimony about the alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his adamant denial of doing anything wrong.

Many across the country — some who support Kavanaugh, some who support Ford — have watched the Senate committee hearings.

Some have been triggered by a wave of emotions so much that the National Sexual Assault Hotline reported a call increase of about 150 percent on Thursday.

The Women’s Center reached out to local women this week, posting a message on Facebook stating that, “due to recent events in the news, some people may experience strong feelings, even triggering memories and emotions from past situations.”

The note reminds people that the center’s crisis hotline is always available at 817-927-2737 and it ends with the center’s regular message: #HopeStartsHere.

The message was shared more than 300 times, and had more than 20,000 views, within 24 hours.

‘I can’t keep quiet’

Stories of sexual assault and harassment often prompt others to share their stories.

“Sexual assault is in the news right now. And when it is, you see a rise in disclosures,” McQueen said. “The stigma for reporting is down.”

For Jean W., the Kavanaugh hearing brought a release of sorts.

The 63-year-old retired Keller teacher couldn’t help responding after seeing a satirical Facebook post about how a yearbook could be misconstrued.

“I responded that after watching the hearing, it brought up my own sexual assault in high school,” she said. “This is very difficult, but I can’t keep quiet.”

The Facebook user responded.

“He messaged me and said he didn’t want obscenities on his page and unfriended me.”

Opposing view

Kavanaugh supporters staunchly supported their pick for Supreme Court on social media.

Some asked if an FBI investigation was ordered, and found nothing, whether Kavanaugh could file charges against Ford for defamation of character.

“We need to make #ConfirmKavanaugh trend on social media to make our voices heard,” one woman posted on a Confirm Kavanaugh public Facebook group.

Another woman posted that she is a “real” survivor after being assaulted in her workplace in 1983.

She decided not to file a lawsuit, but when she turned in a letter about the assault to officials at the Texas A&M Research Center, she was told there had been complaints about her work. So she began talking to researchers. When she asked if she could talk to one, he responded: “yes, come in and sit on my face.”

She quit her job.

“True Survivors NEVER forget any details of what happened,” she posted. “KAVANAUGH FOR SCOTUS!”

And another woman said she and other parents learned a big lesson from these hearings.

“Teach your children, especially your boys, the importance of calendars and journals and make sure they document the day, weather, whereabouts, witnesses, who they were with and any other details that may have occurred, of every day of their lives from now on,” she posted on the Confirm Kavanaugh Facebook group. “And don’t throw them away. You never know. Sincerely, A mom of a boy.”

‘I cried’

Norma Garcia-Lopez, a 38-year-old Fort Worth revenue analyst, said she has talked with family members about the hearings.

“My mother surprised me by telling me she watched it,” Garcia-Lopez said. “My mom asked why was [the Senate Judiciary Committee] so angry, why did they treat [Ford] differently. Her testimony was impactful, versus someone that was attacking others.

“My mom understood this. Sitting late at night discussing took a toll on me, my mom wanted answers and I tried my best to answer so she can understand. I cried.”

Rebecca Galloway, 17, a member of the Feminist Club at Fort Worth’s Paschal High School, said raising awareness about sexual assault and sexual harassment is one of the missions of her club. She said the issue is on the minds of students and some are discussing the case with teachers from a current events standpoint.

On Friday, she took to Twitter to urge lawmakers to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“I’m angry about it. I feel empathy for Dr. Ford,” said Galloway, who was moved to write a poem about the case. She said the case impacts teens because the assault being scrutinized took place when these people were teens.

“I hope people will remember Dr. Ford’s testimony and pay attention and listen to these women,” Galloway said.

Veronika Martin is now worried about her young daughters.

And their futures.

“In a few years we’re going to have to start having these conversations and I’m nervous to have to tell them how to defend themselves,” the 37-year-old Fort Worth yoga teacher said.

“I feel like a failure as a mom because I’m going to have to tell them that I wasn’t able to make the world better for them than what it was for me.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
Hanaa’ Tameez, 817-390-7991, @HTameez
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