Experts say Kavanaugh hearing sends big message to victims
Executive directors of sexual assault centres say hearings could be traumatizing
The nomination hearing for US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's sent a message to victims of sexual assault, according to experts.
Amber Stewart, executive director of the Battlefords and Area Sexual Assault Centre, watched Thursday as Christine Blasey Ford testified to the accusation that a young Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago.
Stewart said the event could empower victims to come forward, pointing to the momentum behind the #MeToo movement.
On the other hand, she said, it could be traumatizing, dredging up memories and emotions of what it felt like to report their assault and undergo questioning, explained Stewart.
Lisa Miller, executive director of Regina's sexual assault centre, said the Kavanaugh hearing sends some discouraging messages.
"We see male victims that come forward after many years and virtually no one questions their claims of being sexually assaulted or sexually abused — I'm thinking particularly around priests — but when a woman comes forward right away the argument is that she's trying to ruin someone's life or career," she said.
More victims are reporting, say centres
Both Miller and Stewart said they see more women coming forward with reports of sexual assault.
Stewart said overall, very public cases of sexual assault allegations serve the public good because it forces people to talk about the issue when they otherwise would not.
In this case, she noted people are discussing why victims wait years to report an assault or choose not to report, pointing to the new hashtag #WhyIdidnotreport.
"Some women just can't say it out loud right away, for years," said Stewart.
She hopes the discussions lift what she calls the myths around how victims are supposed to behave because trauma plays a role in their behaviour and memories.
"People do the best that they can."
In her experience, the main reason women don't report is they do not feel like they will be believed, she said.
There's also fear, explained Miller, who said women could fear for their safety or the breakdown of social networks because often, assault is perpetuated by someone they know.