In 2018, RAINN Helped More Survivors Than Ever

The more than 300 people who staff the National Sexual Assault Hotline are used to spikes in demand, especially when stories of sexual assault and harassment are in the news.

“We worked extensively with The Tale and, when it debuted at Sundance and on HBO, hundreds of survivors reached out to the hotline to share their stories,” says Jodi Omear, vice president of communications. Huge numbers also looked to RAINN for help during Bill Cosby’s trial and Larry Nassar’s sentencing, causing hotline wait times of over an hour.

But these increases were small compared to the numbers of survivors who reached out in September in response to the Kavanaugh hearings. During Dr. Ford’s testimony, the hotline queue—the number of people waiting for help—started to climb. Even with staff working overtime and volunteers taking extra shifts, hotline wait times grew to more than 5.5 hours. The day after the hearing alone, the hotline helped more than 3,000 survivors and their loved ones. Even with the incredible efforts of the hotline team, several thousand more left before getting help.

By the end of December, more than 270,000 people will have received help from RAINN’s victim services programs this year, up more than 60,000 from the prior year. “RAINN this year hired 73 victim services professionals and recruited dozens of hotline volunteers to handle the increased demand for our services,” says Keeli Sorensen, vice president of victim services. "Before beginning work on the hotline, each had to complete RAINN’s rigorous training program, which requires close to 80 hours of classroom learning, online courses, and practice sessions,” adds Sorensen.

“This service expansion wouldn’t have been possible without incredible support from donors,” says Andrea Pagano-Reyes, vice president of development. “So far this fiscal year, more than 10,000 donors have stepped up to help, while new corporate donors such as Google and Uber have joined our efforts. Just this month, a group of generous donors came together to commit to match $100,000 to inspire new giving to RAINN.”

It wasn’t just RAINN’s victim services programs that faced record demand. Every division of RAINN grew this year to meet the increased need.

RAINN’s consulting and training division worked with scores of companies, educational institutions, and other organizations to create change across industries, including McDonald’s, Alaska Airlines, Massage Envy, Peace Corps, and Choate Rosemary Hall. “We’re dedicated to working with organizations to improve their practices related to sexual violence education and response” says Clara Kim, vice president of consulting services. “We offer a variety of services tailored to meet each organization’s specialized needs—from program assessments to training to hotline operation—in a way that facilitates healing and promotes safe and healthy communities.”

RAINN’s communications team worked with the entertainment industry to educate the public and raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault— advising TV shows on storylines about sexual violence, including Lifetime’s unREAL, CMT’s Nashville, and ABC's How to Get Away with Murder.

RAINN’s public policy team prepared an amicus brief for the Bill Cosby trial, urging the court to allow additional victim/witness testimony to demonstrate Cosby's pattern of predatory behavior; the judge later allowed testimony from five other victims, and the trial resulted in a conviction.

In addition, the policy team worked to enact the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act to prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of youth athletes and require the prompt reporting of sexual abuse; they also provided hands-on expert advice to state and local jurisdictions working to address and prevent rape kit backlogs.

“This year, we have seen the longest, sustained growth of people reaching out in our 24-year history. Sexual violence affects almost every family in America—and that’s why it also takes every one of us to end it,” said RAINN president Scott Berkowitz. “We are grateful to the countless volunteers, donors, corporate sponsors, and government partners who support RAINN and make this work possible.”

To support survivors of sexual assault, donate to RAINN. All donations in the month of December will be matched by generous donors.

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