Office of Equity sees uptick in sexual misconduct reports following Ford testimony


Source: Win McNamee/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified last week about sexual assault allegations levied at President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Northwestern students have since been coming forward and reporting past sexual misconduct incidents to the Office of Equity.

Cameron Cook, Reporter

More than 20 million people watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, after Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school.

For many people watching the hearings, Ford’s testimony brought up difficult memories. Some were even moved to report past experiences of sexual violence.

Sarah Wake, a University associate general counsel, said since the hearings there has been a notable increase in Northwestern students coming forward and reporting past sexual misconduct incidents to the Office of Equity.

“My general impression is that people are coming forward to the Office of Equity and other campus partners to discuss incidents that happened in their past because the testimony inspired them (or) evoked difficult memories,” Wake said, declining to provide specifics.

The day Ford’s testimony captured national attention, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network also reported an increase in calls — a 201 percent increase. Local hotlines reported similar upticks in engagement.

Despite the increase in reporting, Wake noted that Ford’s actions are a reminder of how hard it can be to report sexual assault or misconduct.

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school,” Ford said at the Thursday morning hearing.

Ford explained during her testimony that she didn’t originally report the assault because she was “afraid and ashamed” to reveal details. She didn’t want to tell her parents she had been drinking and didn’t know if it was important enough to report.

“I convinced myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should just move on and just pretend that it didn’t happen,” Ford said.

According to RAINN, only 310 out of every 1000 sexual assaults are reported to police. The top two reasons people don’t report are fear of retaliation and the expectation that police won’t take the accusation seriously. Only 32 percent of non-college age women report sexual assault to law enforcement and 20 percent of women aged 18-24 report, according to RAINN.

But in light of Ford’s testimony, that could change.

“I absolutely believe Dr. Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee impacted individuals in the Northwestern community,” Wake said. “I am glad that people are coming forward to seek support from campus resources and I hope that this will continue.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 to send Kavanaugh to the Senate floor this week, after initiating an FBI investigation into Ford and other accusers’ claims.

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