RAINN President Scott Berkowitz Responds to National Sexual Assault Hotline Spike in Calls Following Surviving R. Kelly Part III: The Final Chapter

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    Members of the public who have experienced sexual assault have repeatedly been affected by stories of R. Kelly’s sexual misconduct and crimes. In June 2022, the singer received a 30-year prison sentence as a result of federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges. The prosecution in the case said that he used his fame to take advantage of and sexually abuse individuals in his circle.

    The recent series Surviving R. Kelly shed light on the singer’s history and highlighted the experiences of the survivors who bravely came forward to share their stories. The four-episode third season of the series aired in early 2023, placing the focus on the outcome of the trial with survivors facing their abuser in the courtroom and recounting the experiences of dozens of accusers.

    The show’s final installment, which aired Jan. 3 on cable channel Lifetime, had a ripple effect among a community of sexual abuse victims and survivors by providing contact information for RAINN. The organization was founded by President, Scott Berkowitz, to run the National Sexual Assault Hotline, providing a resource for anyone who was affected by the show’s sensitive content.

    The outreach was astounding. “Following the premiere of Surviving R. Kelly Part III: The Final Chapter, calls to RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline increased 46%,” said RAINN founder and President Scott Berkowitz. ”Many of the survivors who called had never told anyone what happened before speaking with hotline staff. We thank Lifetime for its continued partnership and connecting the audience with RAINN’s critical support services.”

    Sadly, many victims decide not to report sexual abuse crimes. According to data from the U.S. Justice Department, only 310 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported. By comparison, 619 of every 1,000 robberies are reported to police. Only about 25 of every 1,000 sexual assault perpetrators will ever go to prison.

    Reasons for these low figures for reporting sexual assault can include anything from fear of retaliation or shame to a belief there is nothing that law enforcement can or will do to support them. “It’s a very difficult process to go through,”said Berkowitz. “Many victims are afraid that they won’t be supported or they feel like they want to put events behind them and not deal with the criminal justice process.” One of the roles of RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline is to answer questions from survivors who are considering whether to report the assault.

    This starts with RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline hotline, available 24/7 via 800-656-4673 or anytime online at online.rainn.org. RAINN also operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense.

    RAINN’s programs are designed to help prevent sexual violence while also helping survivors through a variety of victim services. Survivors are encouraged to come forward and share their experiences to seek help.

    “We never want a survivor to think they somehow contributed to the assault. A sexual assault is always, and entirely, the fault of the perpetrator,” shared Berkowitz. RAINN staff and volunteers are available to provide support to survivors so that they do not have to be alone while revisiting their trauma or reaching out for assistance.

    Spikes in calls to the hotline are not uncommon when triggering news stories hit the airwaves. RAINN reported a338% increase in calls during Christine Blasey Ford’s 2018 testimony during the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “History shows us that when high-profile allegations such as these are in the news it often causes others to reach out too,” said Berkowitz. The #MeToo hashtag, which has encouraged survivors to share their stories with others, has also had a direct impact on RAINN call volume and operations. The organization marked its support for over 4 million survivors in its 29-year history in November 2022, with those figures continuing to increase as over 800 people are helped each day.

    “We are thrilled that RAINN’s services have become so well known and so trusted,” said Berkowitz. “At the same time, it’s tragic that so many people continue to be victimized by sexual violence, and that demand for our services continues to grow.”

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