On average, more than 300,000 Americans experience rape or sexual assault each year. When the #MeToo movement makes headlines, those survivors are reading. How is that affecting people who have experienced sexual violence, to see stories similar to their own blasted across media outlets every day? Experts aren’t sure, but they’re confident that it’s having some kind of impact.
Case in point: In the last three months of 2017, calls to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network — a national crisis hotline for people who have experienced sexual trauma — increased by 23 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. That increase is part of an apparent nationwide jump in sexual abuse victims seeking help from crisis centers. Experts believe there’s a connection between the increase and the rise of #MeToo, which was founded more than a decade ago but took off as a hashtag in October after reports of workplace abuses committed by the rich and powerful drew media attention to the stories of survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
So are more people calling the hotline now because they feel like #MeToo means they can tell their story and be believed? Or are more people calling the hotline because #MeToo reminded them of their own, personal, pain and now they’re suffering all over again? In short, we can’t say. But the clues left in the stories survivors tell and in the research that exists on the way people respond to trauma suggest that it’s probably a little of both.
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