CLEVELAND – Northeast Ohio native Erika Port had her own #MeToo moment years before household names like Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose and organizations like USA Gymnastics were brought down by allegations of inappropriate behavior and sexual abuse.
“When I spoke out more people felt empowered to say you know this happened to me too by that abuser,” Port explained.
Port met her abuser when she was just a freshman in high school and he was a senior.
“I was 14 when I met him, 15 when the sex abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, stalking, all sorts of types of abuse started happening,” she explained.
The third time Port reported her abuser, she went to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center for support, guidance and help.
Since then the #MeToo movement has not only removed powerful people, like movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, from positions within their industries, but it has spurned a national outcry for justice.
“Some callers feel very empowered by what they’ve seen in the news media and seeing offenders finally be held accountable, seeing survivors demonstrate the courage that it takes to come forward,” said Sondra Miller, the President and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
Since the MeToo movement began, they have seen a massive increase in calls for support, people seeking counseling and people looking for help to maneuver the justice system.
“We were averaging just over 3,000 calls on our hotline a year for pretty close to a decade and there’s been a steady increase and this year we’re expecting close to 7,000 calls on the hotline,” Miller said.
The center operates a 24/7/356 hotline, text and chat service to anyone who feels they need help or support.
In 2016 the center averaged 380 calls, messages, texts into their hotline each month. That number has increased nearly 50% in 2018 to 568.
There are also more people seeking an advocate to go with them through the court process.
“Some of the consequences of reporting are very empowering and very rewarding and sometimes it can have pretty negative consequences,” explained Miller.
“It can be incredibly difficult, so we want to make sure that survivors are prepared for what’s about to happen once they report. It’s very hard to take that information back,” she continued.
The crisis and support hotline is available 24 hours a day. Anyone looking for help or support can call or text 216-619-6192 or 440-423-2020.