After a week that has caused many survivors of sexual assault, violence and harassment to relive painful memories associated with their own experiences, Lutheran Community Services Northwest is planning a gathering for survivors to get together and talk about how best to support each other.
"When I open up social media, we just see this incredible outpouring of pain that is so different than the MeToo and TimesUp conversations we were having in 2017," says Erin Williams Hueter, Inland Northwest Director with Lutheran. "We're just gonna be together and talk through whatever it is we need to talk about as survivors, therapists, and graduates from [Lutheran's] services."
The event, scheduled to take place from 5:15-6:45 pm Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Lutheran's offices at 210 W. Sprague, comes after multiple high-profile sexual assault cases dominated the news this week.
In addition to Bill Cosby being sentenced to prison for a sexual assault that took place 14 years ago (one of the only cases of dozens that could still be prosecuted), the nation largely turned its attention to a contentious hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told senators that Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school in the 1980s.
Many across the country tuned in to watch both Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh's testimony Thursday, and by Friday it was clear that most Republicans on the committee did not feel there was enough evidence to prevent them from approving Kavanaugh, despite also saying they found Blasey Ford to be credible.
But before that hearing even took place, a tweet from President Trump claiming that Blasey Ford's incident would have been reported to police if it was real, sparked international outrage. In response, many around the country and the world have shared their own reasons for not reporting what happened to them, using the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
#whyIdidntreport— Stacy Magness (@ss_wanderlust) September 28, 2018
- I thought it was my fault
- I didn’t want to be put on trial
- I wasn’t sure I could prove it
- I didn’t want to lose my career
- I didn’t want to hurt my family
- The institution is bigger than me
- I was ashamed
-Because I didn’t want to be a victim pic.twitter.com/YxClivPl9c
20-30 years ago hella states didn’t even have spousal rape laws on the books. Police laughed rape victims out of precincts or blamed them. Depending on class and race, disclosing was even more difficult for certain women— elexus jionde. (@Lexual__) September 28, 2018
Lutheran, which operates a 24/7 sexual assault crisis line at 624-7273, has received a huge influx of calls since the hashtag started picking up steam, Williams Hueter reports.
"Last night our crisis hotline volunteer lost her voice because she was talking to people for so long," Williams Hueter says on Friday, Sept. 28.
Williams Hueter remembers watching the Anita Hill hearings when she was a teenager and felt they presented a lesson in humiliation.
"Like, 'Oh I get it, if I’ve been a victim, and if I don't do everything perfectly, it'll be my fault. Even if I do, if I'm as poised as Anita Hill, there are still gonna be people that don't believe me,'" Williams Hueter says. "Now we’re in this same place 27 years later, and it’s just devastating to watch unfold in slow motion, on TV, on the internet, everywhere you turn."
That's why she and the staff at Lutheran, the community's sexual assault center, hope to hold the event to make sure survivors know that people will believe them and that there are resources. The hope is that current events don't discourage people from reporting their own experiences, she says.
"We feel it's important the sexual assault center stand up for survivors during this time," she says. "We believe you, we believe in you and we’re here to support you."
Survivors can also explore their options for reporting and learn more about terminology surrounding sexual assault and harassment via seekthenspeak.org, where, if they choose, the reporting process can be started to get in touch with local police.