The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing where Christine Blasey Ford, Ph.D. testified at Capitol Hill has held a media spotlight during the weeks before and after Sept. 28, when the event occurred. In light of this, Fairfield University Counseling & Psychological Services has begun to further promote their Survivors Support Group to Fairfield students who are survivors of sexual assaults.

Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist at Palo Alto University in California, went public with sexual-assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 16 in a Washington Post article. She stated that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while the two were in high school. Following this, Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh’s, came forward publically with her own sexual misconduct allegations against the Supreme Court then-nominee. This was followed by two additional public accusations and multiple reports by others who allegedly witnessed more of these occurrence. As of Oct. 6, and despite these allegations, Kavanaugh was voted onto the Supreme Court. On Oct. 7 he took his oath and was sworn in as Associate Justice.

“Dr. Ford has shown us all what courage looks like. She has offered up a powerful testament to the profound impact of sexual trauma on both individuals and society at large,” said psychotherapist Mary Ellen Staudt Spitzfaden, LPC, NCC, who works at the Fairfield University Counseling Service. “Her testimony has the potential to empower fellow survivors. It can also have the effect of causing trauma to resurface.”

In fact, information released by the National Sexual Assault Hotline revealed that, since this hearing began, the hotline has experienced a large increase in calls. This culminated on Sept. 25, when they recorded a 147 percent increase in calls, as quoted in the hotline research, “compared with a normal weekday on which sexual assault did not dominate the news.”

“It can be very healing to come together with others who have experienced something similar. Students at Fairfield who are struggling with a sexual assault history are encouraged to utilize Counseling & Psychological Services,” said Susan Birge, assistant vice president and director of Counseling & Psychological Services.

In response to the hearing and the trauma it can cause survivors, the Fairfield University Counseling Service is increasing efforts to promote the return of their regular Survivors Support Group. The Survivors Support Group will be led by a currently unannounced, licensed psychotherapist and will meet weekly at a day and time determined by participants’ availability.

“In our Survivors Group, we create a safe, supportive space where such processes can be gently explored with peers who understand the experience,” Staudt Spitzfaden continued, “We develop strategies to help offset the negative impact of trauma by connecting with sources of resilience and self-esteem to build lives that are once again joyful. Our group is about the power of healing. We welcome all survivors.”

Resident assistant Annie Kamradt ‘19 has been learning more about and becoming more involved with mental health and the Counseling Center since the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year due to her position as an RA. Through this position, she has seen the effect news surrounding the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing has on her fellow Fairfield students.

I do think that news of this hearing can be triggering for survivors. From what I’ve been reading, it sounds like a lot of people are discrediting Ford’s account because of how long ago the incident allegedly occurred,” Kamradt remarked. “They are saying that she must be lying, even when they have no proof to these claims. Something that many survivors have faced or fear they will face… Regardless of these circumstances, Ford persevered and delivered her story with the support of millions behind her. I hope this update in the story doesn’t deter survivors from joining. Rather, I hope survivors see Ford’s bravery and understand that it’s okay not to be okay. Any point in time when a survivor is ready to share their story, the Sexual Assault Support Group is going to be ready to listen. Even if it seems like someone may dismiss the allegations of a survivor, this group will not be that place.”


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-- Executive Editor Emeritus -- English Literature & Film, Television, and Media Arts

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