As Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump faces a cascade of sexual assault allegations (which he has denied), hotlines dedicated to sexual assault victims are experiencing an influx of calls, Slate reports.
The surge began soon after The Washington Post reported on Trump's predatory comments about women in the now infamous leaked 2005 “Access Hollywood" recording.
“Our hotline staff started to see an increase in calls and doubled our staff for the weekend shifts,” Brian Pinero, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network's vice president for victim services, said in an October 11 statement. “There were times when there were 20-30 people in our queue.”
The Saturday after the release of the "Trump tapes," RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline saw a 33 percent increase in online sessions compared the previous weekend, ABC News reports.
"A lot of people calling have specifically said that it was the Trump stuff that got them thinking [about calling]," RAINN President Scott Berkowitz told ABC News.
"This is the kind of thing where, like, you can't not realize this just doesn't happen to poor people," Pinero told NPR in an interview. "It doesn't happen to one type of people. This happens to anyone at any point."
Do these news events ultimately help or hurt victims?
As Fusion points out, reliving a sexual assault can be extremely traumatizing. And some women have said Trump's remarks triggered them.
One such woman was New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D), who opened up at about being molested as a child in a Thursday press conference after the tape surfaced, the Huffington Post reports.
“I just couldn’t stay silent,” she said. “When you have an individual who is boasting about violating and taking from a woman something without her consent, I just couldn’t anymore."
“And to have someone laughing and goading it and enabling it is just ― it was very painful for me and it triggered things that I hadn’t felt in a long time," Mark-Viverito added.
Sexual assault remains extremely underreported, RAINN points out.
Since the 2005 tape surfaced, seven women have come forward alleging that the Republican nominee touched, kissed, or groped them without consent, Yahoo News reports. Three other women's accusations, previously reported, have resurfaced as a result of the tape and allegations it ignited.
In a phone interview with the Times last week, Trump denied the allegations made by Jessica Leeds — who claimed that Trump groped her on an airplane — and Rachel Crooks, who said Trump kissed her inappropriately without consent.
“None of this ever took place,” Trump said. He reportedly went on to accuse the Times of fabricating the story and told the reporter questioning him, “you are a disgusting human being” during the call.
Since then, Trump denounced the women's claims as "false smears," the New York Times reported Thursday. Trump's lawyer also sent a letter (PDF) to the Times claiming that the article featuring Leeds' and Crooks' allegations was "reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se.” His communications advisor Jason Miller also released this statement printed here on The Washington Post.
ATTN: reached out to the Donald Trump campaign and will update this post if we receive a response.
RAINN also addressed Trump's apology and remarks during Sunday's debate — when the candidate maintained that his comments about grabbing women by their genitals were just "locker room talk" — in their October 11 statement.
“Any language that condones sexual assault, no matter where it takes place, is not okay,” Jodi Omear, RAINN’s vice president for communications, said. “Fortunately, this is not the kind of talk heard in most locker rooms. It's the kind of talk we usually only hear from people who don't know the difference between appropriate behavior and sexual violence."
Trump's response to his accusers — attempting to discredit them and attacking one woman's appearance — also illustrates why so few sexual assault victims come forward with allegations.
Women often hesitate to report sexual assault for fear that they will face victim-blaming and harassment if they come forward. In response to the New York Times story in which Leeds was featured, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs retweeted a link to an article that included her phone number and address, as CNN reports.
Trump's suggestion that the incident described by one of the women — People Magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff — didn't happen because she didn't report it at the time also fundamentally misunderstands how sexual assault impacts victims.
“Victims may wait days, weeks, months, years, decades,” sexual assault prevention advocate Tom Tremblay told Vox. “When one victim comes forward, it’s not at all uncommon to see other victims come forward, who are thinking, ‘Well, they came forward; now it’s not just my word.’ And then we see the next victim says the same thing.”
“Oftentimes [power and control are] purposefully leveraged during the assault and afterward, with things like, ‘Nobody is going to believe you, I’m an important person in the community,’” he added.
Regardless of the merit of Stoynoff's allegation (which Trump has denied), Trump's tweet feeds into the myth of the perfect victim and illustrates the criticism women who speak up about sexual violence often face as a result.
ATTN: reached out to RAINN for comment and will update this post when we receive a response.