Local Group for Sex Assault Victims Receives Spike in Calls After Kavanaugh Hearing

A local office that supports sexual assault victims says it has received more calls in the wake of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's emotional testimony during the confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.

Media coverage of the hearing can spark memories of a victim's own experience and allow the person to finally find the words to describe what happened to them, according to the Office for Women & Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in Fairfax County, Virginia.

"I didn't now how to talk about it. I thought I was the only person and now I'm seeing on the news that it happened to, you know, Dr. Ford or it happened to all of the gymnasts at Michigan State. It happened to all of these people and now I'm realizing that's what happened to me and so now I can come forward and talk about it," explained Colleen Armstrong, with the Office for Women.

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News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has been covering this side of the state since joining NBC4 in 1992. She's joined by reporter Drew Wilder.

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The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, said its hotline saw a 147 percent increase above normal call volume on the day of the Kavanaugh and Ford testimony.

Hotline conversations are often critical to whether the victim chooses to seek counseling or decides whether or not to contact law enforcement.

"If they get a response that's warm where a person listens, asks quesitons, is empathetic, and avoids judgement - that person's going to feel more supported," said Chris Davies, with the Office for Women.

For victims that do decide they want to seek a forensic exam, the next step is usually a special unit at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Police will come to the unit if the victim decides to report the assault and if they need more time to think, their evidence is preserved and stored.

"I think we all work together to empower them to make the choice that's best for them, whether it's reporting or not reporting," said Mary Hale, the director for the Inova Ewing Forensic Assessment and Consultation Teams (FACT).

Hale said FACT is prepared to see the number of clients at the clinic increase in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearing.

Davies said hotline numbers are not just for somebody in crisis, they are for anybody who has questions about services or getting help.

"We welcome people to call who are trying to figure out how they can be better supporters and how they can listen better and how they can support better and we'd be happy to consult with people on the hotline anytime they want to call," Davies said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any form of domestic violence, and you want to talk about options and resources available, call the 24-hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline at 703-360-7273.

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