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'Bakewell believes!' Covington neighbors fly bedsheet signs to support sexual assault survivors

Posted: 12:47 AM, Oct 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-03 04:58:44-04

COVINGTON, Ky. -- Believe women.

We see you.

Apt #17 believes you.

Bravery is contagious.

White curtains and bedsheets painted with these and other messages intended to inspire and comfort survivors of sexual assault hung out the windows of a dozen Bakewell Street houses Tuesday night, and Lauren Wolff was raring to make more.

"I hope that some woman who has never told someone, seeing these sheets, felt heard," she said. "I'm happy to keep painting and putting up sheets as long as it takes."

On Sept. 27, Wolff and joined the great national huddle around television, computer and smartphone screens to watch Stanford professor Christine Blasey Ford recount a high school sexual assault she claims was committed by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh -- and, later, to watch Kavanaugh vociferously deny the accusation before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

An FBI investigation into their competing claims will not present its findings until the end of the week. However, watching the national conversation narrow to a laser-focus on one woman's story of sexual assault prompted a record number of calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline and inspired #WhyIDidntReport , a hashtag in which survivors describe the shame, pressure and self-doubt that prevented them from going to the police with their own stories of assault. 

It also inspired Wolff and her friends to search for ways they could broadcast a message of healing and support to those whose traumatic memories had been buoyed to the surface.

Emily Wolff -- no relation -- suggested the sheets, and the group got to work.

"When you talk about sexual assault, sexual abuse, that's one in four women," she said, citing a statistic used by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and RAINN, among others. "Historically, we haven't believed women. That's a lot of the reason why a lot of women haven't come forward. If we send a message that we, as a community, believe women, maybe that'll help change the number."

By Tuesday, even neighbors not present for that initial meeting had put up their own sheets. Lee Bledsoe, whose #IBelieveDrFord banner hangs from the second-story window of his home, said he'd gotten questions about whether the campaign was "a secret resistance society" or coordinated political effort.

It wasn't, he said.

"It's crazy," he added. "I love it."

Both Lauren and Emily Wolff said they want their focus to be on survivors of sexual assault, not on Kavanaugh.

"This is not a political issue," Emily Wolff said. "This isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. This is a human issue. Sexual assault happens to women regardless of political lines."

When The New Yorker¬†reported in October 2017 that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein spent decades leveraging his power to assault, harass and otherwise abuse women in the film industry, the #MeToo movement cascaded into a global force for change across many others. Like the breaking of a dam, it unleashed waves of long-suppressed grievances from men and women who had remained silent due to shame and fear of reprisal. 

But the dam might not be all the way broken until all survivors of sexual assault feel they can be heard by people in power. Until it is, Lauren Wolff said, she has paint.