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Kavanaugh confirmation hearing affecting survivors of sexual assault

MADISON (WKOW) — The confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for U.S. Supreme Court has had some unintended effects — one of which has been to encourage some victims of sexual violence to speak up.

Women lined up in Madison Thursday in support of victims during a protest against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The high profile nature of the confirmation hearing, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, has given the Rape Crisis Center a lot of work to do.

“We are getting a lot of calls in our helpline, this has been very triggering and traumatizing to a lot of survivors of sexual assault,” Erin Thornley Parisi, Executive Director, said.

Thornley Parisi was at the protest Thursday.  She says while the hearing has shown some victims that support is out there, the situation is not cut and dry.

“Some people who have managed to get through their lives without really talking about it to anybody are now being told, ‘Don’t tell now, because this is what we’ll do to you if you do report that you’ve been sexually assaulted’,” Thornley Parisi said.

Thornley Parisi says that while these new victims might not make themselves known to police, just telling someone helps lift their burden.

But ultimately she says the goal is for it to not even be a concern in the future.

“Our desire is to work ourselves out of a job,” Thornley Parisi said. “Our desire is for sexual assault to become as rare as people think it is.”

For that to happen, she says the justice system needs to hold sex offenders more accountable.

But it also takes educating the younger generations, something she says is already happening in Madison, thanks to help from her organization’s youth advisory board, Game Changers.

“Our youth advisory board has really reached out and advocated for themselves,” Thornley Parisi said. “They’re working with the Madison Metropolitan School Board and really affecting some change.”

Thornley Parisi also discussed that while it is important for the alleged perpetrator of sexual assault to be innocent until proven guilty, the same must be done for the victim — that often in these cases, the victim is assumed guilty of lying about the incident until proven innocent.

She said that if anyone needs any help, or needs to talk to someone they have a 24-hour helpline.

The Rape Crisis Center can be reached at 608-251-7273.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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