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Advocates encourage men and women to seek support amid Kavanaugh hearings

SPOKANE, Wash. - Amid the tension and drama of the Kavanaugh hearings in Washington D.C. victim advocates at Spokane's YWCA and Lutheran Community Services Northwest want to remind those who have gone through sexual assault or domestic violence, that there are resources for them available around the clock.

They say with the huge social shift in American culture, with the #metoo movement and recently the #whyIdidntreport movement, both organizations have seen an increase in the amount of people seeking their services or calling their crisis hotlines.

"A lot of what we hear from survivors is that they just want to be seen, heard and believed," said Ligeia DeVelming, LCS's Director of Victim Advocacy. "They may be struggling with self-blame, and guilt."

She says survivors are always watching and listening to what people are saying, how they are reacting especially to these proceedings, and the Bill Cosby trials, when deciding whether or not to share their own story, publically or even just to a close friend. Building up the confidence to share their experience can take years.

"When they come in we let them know they aren't alone, we let them know its not their fault and that we are sorry it happened to them," said DeVelming. "When an assault occurs in any form, its instinctual to internalize it."

At the YWCA, which supports victims of domestic violence, the approach of supporting the women is mirrored. Lately, they've seen women coming in who have felt emotionally triggered by the proceedings in D.C.

"What it really brought out in them was their own stories, they were hearing similarities between the other accusers that have come forward" said Melva Buyers, a YWCA therapist, "They couldn't stop feeling sorry for the survivors and recognizing those exact feelings."

She says if someone is experiencing flash-backs, panic attacks, fear, nervousness, shame or embarrassment, they are encouraged to call their 24/7 domestic violence hotline, at 509-326-CALL (2255) or come into the YWCA's office to get help from a trained advocate and therapist.

If someone struggling with their experience feels empowered by the recent events, and wants to share their experience with a confidant, to that confidant advocates recommend being a sounding board not an interrogator.

"If a survivor feels safe enough and trust you enough to come forward to share, let them know right way, say 'thank you' for sharing it with you, and then say, 'I believe you,'" said DeVelming. "Let them take over the conversation, let them go as far as they want, don't ask questions."

At YWCA they say sharing the story and making it public can be empowering, but they advise seeking guidance from advocates before you do, just so that you can do it in the safest manner.

"We would hate to have someone share their story and not understand the consequences," said Buyers.

She said fear of being called a liar is a huge fear, but that a small percentage of women who come forward are actually making false claims.

"Less than 5 percent that are reported to police are false," said Buyers.

Click here to go to the Lutheran Community Services website.

Click here to go the YWCA website.

 


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