RISE, which provides services and support for rape and sexual assault victims in SLO County, recently reported a 322 percent increase in calls to its sexual assault crisis hotline from the previous year.
The nonprofit's executive director, Jennifer Adams, said the increase in calls corresponded with the rise of the #MeToo movement.
"It's given people a voice and platform to tell their stories, and we are grateful that we can be there to help them," Adams said.
- Photo Courtesy Of RISE
- #METOO IMPACT A growing national awareness about the issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment contributed to a large increase in calls to RISE's sexual assault crisis line in SLO County, officials with the nonprofit say.
Adams said the RISE sexual assault crisis line received a total 129 calls between January and September of 2017. In 2018, the number of calls jumped to 416 for the same period of time. RISE's waiting list for counseling also increased from an average of 30 to 50 people last year to 175 in 2018.
The #MeToo movement exploded into the national spotlight in October 2017 after The New York Times published a story outlining allegations that Hollywood mega producer Harvey Weinstein raped and sexually assaulted multiple women. Following the article's publication, stories of high-profile men accused of sexual assault or harassment continued to come to light. Recently, the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexually assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party when they were both teenagers, and the sentencing of comedian Bill Cosby, who was accused of drugging and raping multiple women over a period of decades, once again rocketed the issue back to the forefront of the national conversation.
"We definitely see an increase when there are things going on in the media," Adams said. "Those stories act as triggers for people's experiences."
Adams said victims who have experienced an assault or harassment in the past are now more willing to come forward.
"They know that there are people who will believe them and that there is help available," she said.
RISE started a #MeToo support group in direct response to the movement. The drop-in group, which is facilitated by a licensed therapist, is a place where survivors can share their stories and learn tools to help them heal and cope with their trauma, Adams said. The #MeToo support group meets every Tuesday between noon and 1 p.m. at 51 Zaca Lane in SLO.