CEO of local domestic abuse network says Kavanaugh hearings trigger victims’ past trauma

DEERFIELD BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - As President Donald Trump approves an FBI investigation into sexual allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a South Florida expert weighed in on the lingering fallout experienced by victims of sexual assault.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford captivated the nation on Thursday when she gave testimony on what she said happened to her 36 years ago.

“The details of that night that bring me here today are the ones I will never forget,” she said during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Blasey Ford testified that she was pushed into a bedroom and thrown onto a bed at a house party in the summer of 1982, when she was 15 years old. The accuser said an inebriated Kavanaugh, then 17, got on top of her.

“He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me … I believed he was going to rape me,” she said during her opening remarks.

Blasey Ford has received widespread support since sharing her account, but she has also faced ridicule and even death threats.

The hourslong hearing triggered trauma among victims of sexual assault, rape and abuse, jamming help hotlines. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, saw a 200 percent increase in calls, Thursday.

Mary Riedel, president and CEO of Women in Distress in Broward County, said she’s certain this week has opened old wounds, causing people across the nation to relive their own nightmares.

“Victims are faced with reliving trauma,” she said. “It’s so important to have a place to open up and to have, it might be friends or family, that they can speak to, and those people listening aren’t making a judgment.”

Those who seek help from Women in Distress are victims of domestic abuse and can include sexual assault and rape. While the details of what happened to them are all different, Riedel said victims often have one common thread: fear that no one will believe them if they came forward.

“Survivors and victims coming forward have to be believed,” she said. “There have to be programs in place, so they know if they do come forward, they will be helped and they will be believed.”

Some argue Bill Cosby’s conviction on Tuesday is proof of progress, but it only happened after dozens of women came forward.

“Bill Cosby has been unmasked, and we have seen the real man as he is headed off to prison,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.

While women in that case found the courage to fight back, Riedel said there are many others still hiding and terrified. She has a message for them.

“Help is a phone call away. Don’t suffer in silence,” she said.

If you or someone you know needs help, you may call the Women in Distress hotline at 954-761-1133. The phone number for RAINN is 800-656-HOPE (4673).

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