MANKATO — As the #MeToo movement brought sexual assault survivor stories to the forefront in recent years, the Committee Against Domestic Abuse’s client numbers spiked.
Executive Director Jason Mack suspects the two are related.
“Anytime there's more awareness at that level, that’s bound to trickle down,” he said. “ … I don’t think it’s happening more. I think more people are talking about it.”
CADA assisted 2,034 sexual and domestic assault victims in 2018, 47% more than in 2016. The #MeToo movement ignited in 2017, which is when most of the increase in clients happened.
“What I’m thinking is those national conversations have led some folks to come forward a little more,” Mack said.
Liz Richards, executive director at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, said she too sees a link between heightened media attention on the issue and survivors feeling more comfortable coming forward.
“There’s been more sustained focus in the media at all levels on domestic and sexual violence issues in the last year and a half,” she said. “I think that’s a contributing factor for sure.”
She noted the Star Tribune’s “Denied Justice” series on how the criminal justice system lets down victims of sexual assault began during the same time frame. So too did Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s accusation-riddled confirmation hearings.
It all results in more people coming forward and less service lulls for advocacy organizations than in the past, Richards said.
“What I have been hearing is pretty steady demand for services,” she said.
CADA is working on a new strategic plan to account for the increase. Mack said the plans could include expanded programming in the coming years.
“I would anticipate in the next one to three years we’re really going to be looking at our programming and trying to think what we need to keep doing and what is it we need to do that’s different,” he said.