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Following Christine Blasey Ford's allegations, local victims seeking help at Nord Center

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The accusations by Christine Blasey Ford that Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while in high school has been the catalyst for some victims of sexual assault to come forward and seek help.

The Nord Center’s Sexual Assault Services has seen an increase in calls from people seeking help recently, said Melissa Counts, an advocate with Nord Center, which is a common occurrence.

“Typically, when there are events like this being portrayed in the news, it will cause an impact or ripple effect on survivors to retrigger them,” Counts said. “Sometimes centers will see an uptake in clients reaching out. We have had more than one call this week that has reached out in response to what’s going on with Kavanaugh.”

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Nationally, one out of six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and women ages 18 to 24 who are college students are three times more likely to experience sexual violence.

The crisis also affects men, according to RAINN. About 3 percent, or one in 33, of American men has experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Also, one of every 10 rape victims is male.

Counts said there is a very high margin of underreporting when it comes to sexual assaults. She also said it’s “very normal” for those that have experienced sexual assault to not disclose it until years later, and there are several reasons why.

Statistics show that 90 percent of offenders are known to the person and usually someone that they trust, which causes the victim to fear what reporting the crime would do to that relationship — such as a family member, friend or a person in power such as a work situation. The victim fears there will be consequences to speaking up, Counts said.

Other reasons people don’t report include because they fear their peers, family or friends won’t believe them, they don’t have access to resources or they don’t know about various resources available to them.

Counts said those reasons are a big part of why the statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault is 25 years.

For those that haven’t reported a sexual assault that occurred years prior, Counts said it’s important that they do report it rather than keep it a secret.

“It can be important for a person to come forward because sometimes there can be shame or self-blame that surrounds it,” she said. “It definitely is important for them to get help to heal through that and be supported through that. That way they’re not continuing to hold on to that secret that carries any kind of shame or self-blame.”

Betsey Kamm, director of institutional advancement at The Nord Center, said those who have been sexually assaulted often mistakenly believe that trying to get help would mean reporting the assault to the police.

“That might be a hindrance,” Kamm said. “If you don’t want to report it to the police, you might not reach out for any help at all.”

Kamm and Counts were emphatic that is simply not the case, though.

“They can reach out for those services anonymously, and they’re free and confidential,” Counts said. “That’s a good door to walk through to start the process of healing.”

Last year, Sexual Assault Services provide services to 949 clients, Kamm said, including 305 children who were sexually abused, 165 adults that experienced sexual assault and 97 adults who were victims of childhood sexual abuse. The SAS Hotline received more than 400 calls in 2017.

The Nord Center has a 24/7 crisis hotline at (800) 888-6161, and the Sexual Assault Services has its own hotline at (440) 204-4359. The calls can be made anonymously, are confidential and the services are free. More information about the Nord Center can be found at nordcenter.org.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

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