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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Sees Upturn in Calls After Celebrity Sex Assault Stories

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 10:22 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA CLEVELANDRAPECRISISCENTER/FACEBOOK
  • Photo via ClevelandRapeCrisisCenter/Facebook

The ever-growing list of powerful, famous men accused of sexual assault and harassment has come about because of and resulted in a greater willingness by victims to tell their stories. That cultural change is being born out in headlines but also on a smaller scale.

For some victims it has meant speaking publicly, as seen with the #MeToo campaign where victims took to social media and even the streets to show solidarity against sexual violence. For others, the process is playing out more privately.

Since the campaign began last month, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has seen a 50-percent increase in the number of calls/texts/chats to its rape crisis and support line. According to Center records, they're on pace to exceed 6,000 calls by the end of the year, which would be the most it's ever handled.



"Over the last five years, we've experienced an overwhelming increase of calls to our hotline, which reflects the seismic shift in cultural attitudes about sexual assault and more people willing to come forward," a Rape Crisis Center spokesperson tells Scene.

Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Center, says that while the public accounts have helped, victims need to know that getting help comes first.

"It's really important for victims to understand they have no obligation to share their story with anyone; they don’t owe that to anyone," Miller says. "Telling your story is really about feeling safe enough that you can share your information."

Like new Clevelander Gabrielle Union, whose recent memoir We're Going to Need More Wine describes being raped as a college student. The actress, and wife of the Dwyane Wade, officially went public with her survival story in 2014, but it took years of therapy and healing to get to that point.

"Once I shared, others shared ... I realized I was offering a bridge, a hand, to other people who wanted to share, or who just needed to know, 'Hey, I’m not alone.'" Union told the Washington Post. (Watch her speak more candidly on the subject below.)

"I do see it as positive momentum. I think many people who have this experience... they think they’re the only one this happened to, that there is something wrong with them," Miller says. "When we have these conversations, the blame belongs with people who committed the crime, not the victims."

And it's not just women who are utilizing the Rape Crisis Center's services. After the Jerry Sandusky scandal hit in late 2011, Miller says the amount of men calling for help went from about 2 percent to 11 percent of inquiries. She says that number hasn't dipped since.

"None of this is new. It’s being revealed," Miller says.

A harrowing report published earlier this year confirms that sexual assault and rape are far more prevalent in America than one might think. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three women and one in six men in America will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

"Prevalence of sexual violence isn't more now than any other decade, just then it was under reported," Miller says. "There was so much stigma, and we’ve been gradually chipping away at that."

Miller says the most important thing friends and family can do for sexual assault survivors is to listen.

"This may seem simple, but telling survivors you are sorry this happened, and this isn’t their fault — that can be transformative," she says.

The 24-Hour Cleveland Rape Crisis Center hotline can be reached at 216-619-6192 or 440-423-2020.

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