Advocacy center sees spike in hotline calls following Kavanaugh confirmation

Sarah Hopping, sexual assault advocate and hotline coordinator, spends her time handling issues around the office and beyond. This includes one-on-one meetings, sharing information with clients and traveling to the hospital to administer tests to those who have been sexually assaulted. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Maddie Gee | Reporter

According to The Department of Justice, “one in four women and one in six men are sexually abused in their lifetime” — not including the individuals who never report an incident. The Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children in Waco is bringing a voice to those who are too afraid to speak.

Sarah Hopping, sexual assault advocate and hotline coordinator, has been working for the center for two years. She along with the rest of the staff work to provide services including counseling or support groups to help survivors of crimes and traumatic events like sexual abuse and suicide.

“We are a non-profit organization who supports crime victims and children. The majority of our clients, I would say 80 to 90 percent, are sexual assault survivors. That is adults and children.” Hopping said.

While the majority of their clients are sexual assault survivors, there are other situations that the Advocacy Center helps with as well.

“But we do see other clients that have been through domestic violence, physical abuse, have survived suicide attempts — any type of crime we can provide services like case-management and counseling. They are all free to the clients that we see,” Hopping said.

While making an impact on the clients, Hopping has experienced a change in herself as well.

“I started out as a volunteer and just was kind of looking for something to give back,” Hopping said. “I stumbled upon this through a Google search. I became one of the hotline advocates, and it has done a lot for me. My eyes have been opened to a lot of different clientele and different people from all walks of life and backgrounds. It is one of the most rewarding things. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done to work in this type of environment, but it is also really special.”

The controversial appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh has impacted many survivors, including those on our own campus. St. Martinville, La., junior Kristen Mouton says she wholeheartedly disapproves of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is a slap in the face to me as a survivor of sexual assault. Every senator who voted to confirm him, despite Dr. Ford’s testimony, told me with their vote that I don’t matter and neither does what happened to me. Every vote in favor of Kavanaugh sitting on the highest court in our country is a reminder of why I never reported,” Mouton said.

To Mouton, what happened to Dr. Ford is extremely traumatic due to the “double-victimization.”

“When survivors come forward, not only are we faced with a double-victimization from retelling the story over and over — we are hit with disbelief. Kavanaugh’s confirmation is proof to me that the trauma of survivors is irrelevant so long as a man’s career is on the line.” Mouton said.

After Kavanaugh’s appointment, the center received an upward spike in calls.

“I would say we receive three to five calls a day regularly. The increase in calls was probably due to them seeing someone speak out in front of millions, and maybe it is giving them the courage to speak out about something that happened to them.” Hopping said.

Hopping said that seeing a fellow survivor tell their story publicly can lead to the trauma of the event being relived, causing them to finally open up about their own personal struggles.

“Sometimes I think it could just be re-triggering if it has happened a while ago. This can all be bringing back some memories for them, and maybe that is cause for them to reach out for help as well. I think it is two-fold a little bit. Last week especially was more of an increase for us,” Hopping said.

Following the controversy surrounding Kavanaugh, Hopping said there is hope for survivors.

“There are people that believe you and there are people that want to help you. There are agencies like ours who are full of people who are on this team with you. You are not alone, and no one has to go through this alone. Even if you just need healing for yourself, that is what we are here for. You are not alone, and I believe you. It is sometimes hard because I know in my lifetime we will probably not see the end of sexual violence — but maybe in the future. That is my hope,” Hopping said.

If someone is looking to volunteer for the hotline, reach out to the center or contact Sarah Hopping directly, at 254-752-9330.