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#MeToo increased visibility of sexual assault, Kavanaugh raises doubts, says advocates

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media
Alexandra Dukat of Syracuse, a rape survivor.

Vera House’s 29th report to the community this week doesn’t include any major trends or increases in reports of domestic and sexual violence in Onondaga County. But in a year that has spawned the #MeToo movement and more awareness of this kind of violence, advocates are more dejected than ever.

Alexandra Dukat of Syracuse is a rape survivor. She said she was assaulted in college. But as a stereotypical sorority sister, who’d been drinking and had been underage, she never reported it.

"So there’s this fear of going to the police," Dukat said. "I’d already been doing something wrong, but every college students does that. I would never have been believed. And that was my opinion because of what rape culture teaches us."

Dukat finally was able to tell her story to a therapist. And she said she’s still not believed by everyone who hears about the assault. That has only been amplified following the probe into sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“I just feel very hopeless right now that things aren’t going to change for the better," Dukat said.

Vera House Executive Director Randi Bregman agrees; it’s harder to help these victims when they feel their stories are minimized.

"It’s like a game of Chutes and Ladders so that we’ve been working very hard, we see ourselves climbing, we see awareness, we feel hope we see the visibility of the #MeToo movement," Bregman said. "And then these last two weeks, we feel like we’ve been on a steady slide down and we wonder, will we ever see the top?”

Bregman noted that national statistics show 92-98 percent of all reports of assault are true, so believing survivors is essential to healing.

"We can’t say everybody should come forward, speak your truth, find your voice, when we as a community can’t give them safety, honor their truth and can’t give them the respect and healing that they deserve," Bregman said. 

Bregman said the #MeToo movement increased the visibility of the issue earlier this year, but the Kavanaugh hearings have instilled some doubt in the stories of some survivors of abuse.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.