Sexual assault crisis lines report spike in calls in wake of Kavanaugh nomination

Vancouver crisis centres say they've experienced a spike in calls about sexual assault and trauma in the wake of ongoing discussions about whether Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault, will be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This has been an incredibly galvanizing moment for survivors," says crisis centre director

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. (Saul Loeb/EPA-EFE)

Vancouver crisis centres say they've experienced a spike in calls about sexual assault and trauma in the wake of ongoing discussions about whether Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault, will be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Sept. 27 Dr. Christine Blasey Ford spoke in a hearing before the U.S. Senate judiciary committee, alleging Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, when they were both in high school.

Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women's Support Services (BWSS) said ever since that hearing, calls have been coming in "fast and furious."

"Women are on the lines calling from the moment we turn on the line to the moment we close the line. There isn't a break in the calls," she said.

"It's also on the minds of most women just broadly, not only those that are seeking support, because perhaps they're being triggered. They're having memories."

'Survivors are listening'

Dalya Israel with the Rape Crisis Centre, also known as Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW), said she, too, has "absolutely" seen an increase in calls, though it's too early for the data to have been collected and analyzed.

"We've seen a huge increase in our crisis line calls, but also in calls to receive information about options around reporting," she said.

Israel said the spike over the past two weeks has been part of a trend that has been going on for about a year and a half, that has forced WAVAW to change how it manages its workload.

"It very much does impact the level of work that's required of staff," she said.

"With Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby and even the Donald Trump stuff — every single point along the way, survivors are listening to whether it's safe to talk about what happened to them."

'Galvanizing' moment

MacDougall said many people who have experienced sexual assault can relate to the graphic details shared in Ford's testimony.

"This has been an incredibly galvanizing moment for survivors," she said.

"Hearing that and knowing that that's such a common experience is, on the one hand, validating for survivors [to know] they're not alone, but it's also overwhelming to think how endemic sexual violence is," she said.

MacDougall said the extended media coverage of the hearings and its aftermath, during which hundreds of women shared their experiences, is somewhat of a double-edged sword.

"All this access to information has been really important but it's also been really triggering, really tiring, exhausting and enraging," she said.

"It's something we're all figuring out how to calibrate."


Where to get help:

Rape Crisis Centre 24-hour crisis line: 604-255-6344 or toll free 1-877-392-7583

Battered Women's Support Services: 604-687-1867

VictimLink B.C.: 1-800-563-0808

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868; Live Chat counselling at kidshelpphone.ca

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About the Author

Michelle Ghoussoub

@MichelleGhsoub

Michelle Ghoussoub is a journalist with CBC Vancouver. She previously reported in Lebanon and Chile.