Spike in calls to sexual assault hotlines after Dr. Ford's testimony

There was an estimated 147 percent increase in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline on Thursday, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

Sexual assault victims' advocates in the Houston area say they have seen a similar spike in calls in the day since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified about her sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The Houston Area Women's Center has seen its sexual assault call rate double in the 48 hours between Wednesday and Friday, according to Emilee Dawn Whitehurst, president and chief executive officer of the organization. 

"I don't know if it was just the [Ford] testimony, per se, or just the fact that we are now hearing about sexual assault in so many places," said Whitehurst. "Every survivor has their own healing journey that they need to go on, and it is for them to decide when and whether they want to tell their story."

Houston Area Women's Center is offering counseling and shelter to those people who do pick up the phone and ask for help after an assault, but victims don't always make that call.

"The psychological toll and impact of that experience can be very traumatic and confusing," said Whitehurst. "There is a type of distortion that can happen in one's sense of self and one's understanding of the event."

Whitehurst also said the distortion and confusion can lead some people to wait years to speak about their own stories.

"It is very common for people to come forward many decades after the assault happened and to maybe just even come to consciousness that what happened to them was indeed an assault," said Whitehurst.

FOX 26 News also reached out to Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) for data on sexual assault calls. AVDA representatives said they have experienced an overall uptick in calls from sexual assault victims in 2018 compared to 2017. They say the cause of that uptick could be anything, including Hurricane Harvey leaving victims more vulnerable, as well as the greater national dialogue about sexual assault.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault and you would like to talk to someone about it, you can contact the RAINN national hotline by phone at 800-656-HOPE or the Houston Area Women's Center hotline at 713-528-RAPE.