The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is reporting a surge in calls as sexual assault scandals dominate the headlines. While these stories have empowered some, they have also sparked a setback for other survivors still trying to heal.
Jacqueline Pfadt calls herself a survivor, but says its been was a long journey to get here. Years of healing were disrupted in 2013 by the faces of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - the three women who were kidnaped, tortured and held captive by Ariel Castro in his Cleveland home.
“That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Pfadt.
As it did for her, news stories like that can trigger PTSD symptoms for those whose wounds are not fully healed.
“Where that triggered me to flashbacks where I lost touch with where I was in the present moment,” she said. “I started rocking back-and-forth, trying to hit my head on the table, I couldn't focus. When I get triggered, I start looking up to the left, and I can't make eye contact anymore.”
With story after story of sexual harassment and assault coming out through the #MeToo campaign, Sondra Miller with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said not all survivors’ responses have been positive.
“We are hearing from a lot of survivors that are feeling empowered by what they're seeing in the news, but we're hearing just as many, who're struggling to cope with what they're thinking, what they're hearing about, what they're seeing,” she said.
As for Pfadt, she said she has to remind herself that she is safe and loved, and to turn off the voices of her younger self.
“Stopping the shame on repeat that you're worthless, you're not worth loving, you'll be better off dead,” said Pfadt.
After two years of self-healing, Pfadt said she was finally ready to hear the stories of other survivors. They eventually gave her the courage to step forward and tell her story. She said that is what the #MeToo campaign is all about. But for some, it may take some time.
“Other people having the strength and the courage to step up and say me too. This happened to me too. You're not alone,” said Pfadt. "It's OK to say I'm not there yet, but when you get there, it's nice to have the stories out there that you can reach to help with your process."
If you or someone you know is dealing with sexual abuse, you can contact the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.