Spike in calls to NJ rape crisis centers after Kavanaugh probe
Sexual assault allegations against a now-U.S. Supreme Court Justice have prompted many New Jersey residents to speak about their own experience as a victim, according to preliminary data from victim advocates.
Calls from New Jersey to the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline shot up by 65 percent from Tuesday Sep. 25 to Thursday, Sep. 27 — the day Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for hours, taking questions related to her allegation that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago when they were both in high school.
Early reports from a sample of county-based rape crisis centers within the Garden State show an average call volume increase of 16 percent from August to September.
"The advocates at the local programs have shared with us ... that a number of callers have actually articulated the fact that watching these discussions play out in the national landscape has been triggering for them and prompted them to seek help," said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
The state's rape crisis centers serve approximately 10,000 survivors and their loved ones each year. In many instances, Teffenhart said, the survivor is years removed from victimization.
"Almost always, with every one of these high-profile cases, we find an increased number of callers looking for services," Teffenhart said. "And many of them indicate that this may be the first time they've mentioned their victimization to anyone, including their loved ones."
Coming into 2018, half of New Jersey's county-based ripe crisis centers reported a waiting list for services. With increased call activity, Teffenhart said, there's some concern among advocates about their ability to meet the growing demand for assistance.
The FBI recognizes sexual assault as the most underreported crime.