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Sexual Assault Allies Discuss Impact Of Kavanaugh Hearings

Gabe speaks to crowd
Mary Cullen
YWCA Stepping Stones Director of Community Outreach Gabe Cripe addresses a crowd alongside vigil director Linda Unterman on Oct. 9, 2018.

Following Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the national sexual assault hotline saw a 147 percent increase in calls.

That’s according to an estimate by the hotline’s operator, the Rape Abuse and Incense National Network (RAINN).

Gabe Cripe, director of community outreach at Stepping Stones, said YWCA McLean County's sexual assault outreach program also saw a noticeable increase in calls.

Speaking Tuesday on The 21st, Cripe said the most frequent questions volunteers with Stepping Stones get from survivors are, “Is this my fault?” and “Will I be believed?”

“What we tell people when they’re working with survivors, when they’re handling the disclosure, whether that’s in the professional setting or the personal setting, is that we want to let the survivor know that we believe them, and we want to let the survivor know that what happened is not their fault,” Cripe said. “And then also helping them process those options.”

From there, he said the volunteers ask what they can best do to support the caller.

The calls following the Kavanaugh hearings were mostly clients and requests from allies for more information on helping and supporting survivors of sexual assault, Cripe said.

Brendan Wall, president of Illinois State University’s Students Ending Rape Culture organization, said even though not all sexual assault is male-on-female, it is important to discuss how men can be allies.

“I hear a lot of men who are like, ‘Oh, I don’t really know how to handle sexual assault. I’m afraid that I’m going to be accused.’ And I’m like, that’s really not an issue,” Wall said. “I think it’s between 2 and 8 percent for a false reporting statistic, so a lot of men are just not educated on the fact that they’re not going to be accused of sexual violence. They still just need to educate themselves on how do you respond to someone when they say, ‘I was assaulted.’”

Wall said he frequently hears classmates using triggering language, like “that test raped me.” He said he thinks further discussion with peers about what is and is not appropriate can make a big difference for survivors in need of allies.

In regards to ISU’s campus, Wall says many students ask where to find campus resources. But he also stressed the importance of preparing peers for how to support survivors, too.

He said being able to speak with someone who has had a similar experience can provide a different type of support than someone who has been more “classically trained” in supporting survivors.

Cripe said every survivor’s healing process is different. Some may want counseling, while others’ healing process may end after a report is filed. But he said Stepping Stone’s No. 1 goal for serving clients is making sure they know all of their options and letting them decide for themselves.

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