After the The Washington Post released a tape of Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump boasting about his ability to forcibly grope and kiss women without their consent and get away with it because he’s a star, author Kelly Oxford asked women to tweet her accounts of their first assaults. Within 48 hours, more than 1 million women had responded.
While they haven’t seen a million responses since the tape’s release Oct. 7, the Sexual Assault Services Organization in Durango has seen a measurable uptick in every area of the support services it offers for survivors of sexual assault.
“Holy cow, that was a good question to ask,” said Maura Doherty Demko, executive director of SASO. “There has been a significant increase since the tape was released.”
The trauma is being retriggered both by Trump’s remarks as recorded in 2005 and his response and that of his surrogates to attack the accounts of the women coming forward, she said.
Perhaps the most significant increase SASO has seen is in referrals to resources in the community, which have tripled since the release, growing from 25 to 76 for the same two weeks compared with 2015. Resources can include therapy, housing, crisis funds and support groups.
For the two weeks before the tape was released, SASO saw three additional “nonduplicative” or individual clients and two additional contacts over the same time the previous year, although it was down one hospital visit. SASO advocates accompany survivors to the hospital after an assault for a wellness and forensic exam.
Since the tape went viral, the organization has helped 14 unique clients, up five from the same time period last year, and had 22 total contacts with survivors, up 10, almost 50 percent, in those two weeks.
Unfortunately, sexual assaults in this area were already on the rise, Doherty Demko said.
The number of SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) exams this year was already up to 41 on Friday, passing 2015’s total number of 17. Last year was an anomaly, she said. The organization counted 33 SANE exams in 2014, and it was steadily increasing about five a year until last year, she said.
“Allowing anonymous reporting means women are using it more,” Doherty Demko said.
That may mean reporting is on the rise, not the number of sexual assaults, but there is not enough information available to come to that conclusion. The rate of reporting is still about 60 percent.
“This is something that is everywhere,” Doherty Demko said. “Even though we live in this amazing community, at the same time, it is happening here. Trump’s made it a household discussion, and it needed to be a household discussion to make us look at this as a country.”
To learn more
For immediate help anytime after sexual assault or abuse, call the Sexual Assault Service Organization’s free and confidential 24-hour hotline at 247-5400.
To learn more about the organization, its services, how to volunteer or how to donate, visit www.durangosaso.org.