Christine Blasey Ford hearing resonates with other sexual assault survivors

- Today's testimony from Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford struck a nerve with people across the country not only on both sides of the political aisle, but among sexual assault victims who can relate to what they are hearing.

One Minnesota-based sexual assault victim advocate believes the testimony can both help and hurt when it comes to sexual assault victims opening up about their experiences.

At the end of the day regardless who people believe, the details described are relatable to countless sexual assault victims.

The Sexual Violence Center answers more than 4,000 crisis calls a year. While it's too early to say whether those numbers have increased in recent weeks, Fox 9 was told more and more victims are calling because of triggers they've heard or read about in the news.

It’s really hard to watch because I’m watching someone speak publicly and she didn’t want to have to do that,” said Kristen Houlton Shaw, of the Sexual Violence Center in Northeast Minneapolis.

As a victim advocate and Executive Director of the Sexual Violence Center, Shaw worries about the ripple of effect of Thursday’s hearing.

Keeping politics out of it, Shaw points out the testimony given by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford resonates with countless victims.

Describing an assault that involved alcohol, by someone Ford knew, that was not reported to police and  was shared with very few people in her life are all similarities to the vast majority of the types of crisis calls Shaw and her staff answer every day.          

“So many people are coming to us for support because it’s hitting home for them,” Shaw said. “And they felt it could be me going through all of this publicly right now.”

“While Shaw fears the public scrutiny, questions and doubt will cause victims watching to continue to keep silent about their assaults. She also acknowledges Dr. Ford is inspiring other courageous victims to at least talk about assaults they may have buried for years.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace, for example, admitted in the wake of the Kavanaugh allegations that his own two daughters have shared stories about events in high school he had never heard before now.

“There are teenage girls that don't tell stories to a lot of people and I don't think we can disregard that,” Wallace said.

“When it’s in the news people struggle,” said Shaw. “They really struggle.”

Shaw’s advice is if someone in your life shares a past experience of sexual assault, listen, don't ask questions that start with “Why?”

Also, keep in mind, it takes courage to start those conversations in the first place.

“I hope this particular person who says she has had sexual violence in her background feels like she was heard,” said Shaw. “And she was respected and it wasn’t an entirely negative and re-victimizing experience for her.”

If you are a sexual assault survivor who needs someone to talk to, the Sexual Violence Center has a 24 hour crisis hotline you can reach at 612-871-5111.

That hotline is not only for victims, but also secondary victims, including friends and family members.

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