Robin Hopkins is a married mother of two, regularly attends Bible study and is a survivor of childhood trauma. She tells her story with ease and determination while sitting in an office at King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) in Renton. Today she’s self-assured, but that wasn’t the case before she made the life-changing decision to seek help at KCSARC. Hopkins survived being sexually abused for years by her step-father.
“Even though I had nightmares and flashbacks and panic attacks, I wouldn’t admit it was happening, even to myself,” Hopkins recalls. “When I walked in these doors at KCSARC, I thought I was a lost cause. I thought I was too old. I’ve had to deal with this too long, but come to find out I wasn’t too far gone at all.”
Hopkins said she was abused from the time she was 7 years old until she began ninth grade.
She was terrified of her step-father and didn’t tell her mother about what happened until after the two divorced and she was an adult.
Over the years, Hopkins focused on raising her two sons and making sure they were safe. As they got older, she spent more time alone and it became harder to suppress the trauma. About a year and a half ago she called up KCSARC for help.
Hopkins now describes herself as a fighter, advocates for expanding the statute of limitations on sexual assault and wants to help others by telling her story. She even filed a police report, recounting what happened to her as a child. The prosecutor didn’t file charges because too much time has passed; but the symbolism was an important part of remaining resilient. Her experience is now on the record.
Hopkins isn’t the first person that KCSARC staff have seen have a transformative experience by utilizing their services.
“We see the power of people’s ability to overcome difficult circumstances,” said Executive Director Mary Ellen Stone. “I think we are constantly humbled by that, and honored to be able to walk alongside people when they go through that.”
“We see the power of people’s ability to overcome difficult circumstances."
The nonprofit organization has a four-decade history in the community and offers a number of services; services that include a 24-hour resource line, legal advocacy and therapy for children, teens and adults. Clients include men and people experiencing homelessness.
The #MeToo movement sparked an uptick in people reaching out to KCSARC for help.
They’ve experienced a 19 percent increase in requests for all services, and their legal advocacy department has seen a 23 percent increase in clients over the year prior the arrival of the #MeToo movement in 2017.
In the period leading up to Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony, the 24-hour resource line saw a 32 percent increase in calls. It’s not a stretch to say the barrage of headlines and the number of women speaking out about their experiences empowered others to come forward. Because of the groundwork laid four decades ago, Stone said they were prepared to assist all who reached out.
Stone didn’t think the increased rates of requested services following #MeToo would hold; hashtags are fleeting, but unfortunately, trauma is not. According to Stone, the increased utilization of KCSARC services has stayed consistent because the #MeToo movement has made a real difference, showing that the statistics regarding sexual assault are no longer just faceless figures.
“All of us know victims,” said Stone. “All of sudden I think people are starting to say what we have been saying really is something in their own personal experience not a theoretical.”
Stone has been involved in KCSARC since its early days as an all-volunteer service. In the last year, she’s seen the community step up in different ways to help the organization. A local brewery created a beer called Silence Breaker, and all proceeds went to the organization. Artist Renee Nixon has created a series called “Recombobulated” and gifts the images to people who make a donation to KCSARC (or other groups who advocate for rape survivors and womens’ rights, if they don’t live in the Seattle area).
“It’s everybody saying this is something that I can help with. I have a stake in helping victims create a climate where sexual assault isn’t tolerated,” said Stone. “That’s what seems so different now and really encouraging.”
This year, KCSARC began “Launch Pad,” a new program in local elementary schools. Launch Pad aims to train teachers to recognize when kids are dealing with trauma so they can support the child, rather than punish and isolate them. It’s a preventative measure that aims to get children help sooner, in the context of community.
“We’re changing people’s lives. We’re changing the community. We’re changing the culture. And I do believe that we can eventually stop, or at least drastically reduce, sexual assault,” said Stone. “But it’s not going to be in my lifetime because I think we’re still on this upward trajectory in terms of people coming forward.”
“We’re changing people’s lives. We’re changing the community. We’re changing the culture."
Stone’s optimism comes from the work they do at KCSARC.
It’s grounded in her belief that human behavior can change.
Seeking help for sexual assault, abuse and other traumas isn’t always easy, but Hopkins can attest that doing so had a significant positive impact on her life. She feels like a different person since stepping forward and is no longer afraid to go about everyday tasks (checking the mail, going to the grocery store) because she no longer fears someone is out to harm her.
“I’m stronger than I thought I was. Stronger than I ever was told I was,” said Hopkins. “There are people who care and people that’ll help you. I’m living proof.”
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Lisa on Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge
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