CHICAGO (CBS) — One in every four women is sexually assaulted. For victims, high-profile stories of other victims can bring flashbacks, stress and anxiety.

On an average day, the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline would field about 3 phone calls, but that number recently jumped to 12. There are resources available if you need help.

“Survivors, I understand what you’re carrying. It’s big, and it’s heavy, but you don’t have to carry it alone,” said sexual assault survivor Jacqueline Lara.

This week has been particularly hard for her, as actor Bill Cosby was sentenced to prison for sexual assault, and at least three women have come forward with sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from Kavanaugh’s first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, on Thursday.

Lara said it’s harder for her when stories like these are in the news.

“It’s very relevant, but I also recognize the more I speak about it, the more I empower women to come forward,” she said.

Phone calls to the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago have surged in recent weeks.

“They’re saying ‘I thought that I was okay, and after hearing what’s happening in the news, I’m realizing that I could actually use someone to talk to, and could use some support,’” YWCA Clinical Program Director Anne Pezzillo said.

Calls are up 15 percent this week, in response to recent high-profile cases of sexual assault; stories that often re-traumatize survivors.

“It can be triggering for them; and those triggering symptoms can result in flashbacks, exacerbated feelings of depression or anxiety,” Pezzillo said.
Lara, who’s also a case manager at YWCA, has a message for other survivors.

“It’s never too late to say, ‘I’m ready to live this way. I’m ready to start healing. I’m ready to accept, yes, this did happen, but it’s not the end of my life,’” she said.

“It doesn’t matter how long ago you experienced your trauma. We can support you in your healing, we can support you in believing you, and we can support you in becoming whole again,” Pezzillo said.

If you or someone you know was sexually assaulted, no matter when it happened, you can call the Rape Crisis Hotline at 888-293-2080. They can connect you with a counselor and many other resources free of charge.