Demonstrators participate in a #MeToo Survivors march in response to several high-profile sexual harassment scandals on November 12 in Los Angeles. Survivors are coming forward online and also contacting rape crisis centers in record numbers. (David Mcnew/Getty Images)

Calls to rape crisis centers are surging in Washington and around the country amid an unprecedented public outpouring of survivors’ stories about sexual misconduct.

Managers of crisis hotlines say the barrage of news implicating men in some of the most powerful positions in Hollywood, politics and the media is compelling women from all walks of life to speak out about their own traumatic experiences with sexual assault, many for the first time.

Advocates for sexual violence prevention see the national conversation as a hopeful moment that could bring lasting change. It is also a challenging one in the short term, with a spike in demand that is straining the resources of about 1,300 rape crisis centers around the country that provide free, anonymous, round-the-clock counseling and other support services. Many centers are scrambling for funding, new staff members and volunteers to meet the demand.

“The good news is we were able to help a record number of people last month,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), a national hotline with a call center in Washington. “The bad news is that there are even more that came to us and left before we could reach them because our wait times were too high.”

He said an uptick in calls is typical when there is a big news story or a scandal but the past year has brought two significant and sustained increases in demand for counseling and support.

The first came after The Washington Post published video of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging about groping women to the former host of “Access Hollywood.” The second came in October with the report of decades of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and then a #MeToo Twitter campaign went viral with many people sharing their own stories of sexual harassment or violence.

In all, the network responded to 19,432 survivors in October, a 10 percent increase from the month before. In addition to a general hotline and live online chatline, RAINN operates hotlines for the Defense Department and the Peace Corps.

At peak traffic last month, when #MeToo was trending, some people waited online or on the phone for up to three hours, Berkowitz said. In response to the demand, the network recently trained a group of 20 new people. It now has 150 people working for its call center and is planning to hire 18 more, he said.

Requests for counseling are up at Doorways for Women and Families in Arlington, which saw a 15 percent increase in calls to its hotline last month. The D.C. Rape Crisis Center has seen a similar increase in calls — the hotline now receives well over 400 calls a month — and a 20 percent increase in requests for therapy. The uptick began last fall and has continued through the year, said Indira Henard, executive director of the DCRCC.

She said many survivors are referencing the headlines when they call. The daily reminders create stress and instability for many who have a history of trauma, she said.

“Everywhere they turn, there is a reminder. Every time they are on Facebook and Twitter, they are being triggered. In their news feeds, there is another article and then another,” she said. “Every time something happens, it activates what is in your nervous system.”

Amanda Lindamood, the director of training and community engagement who manages the hotline at DCRCC, said this “overexposure” to trauma is affecting survivors as well as those who are working to help them. She is concerned about burnout for those taking calls because they are encountering more trauma now on the phone lines and are inundated with the topic in the news when they’re off, like the rest of the public.

The uptick is happening across the country. In Cleveland, the volume of calls jumped 50 percent at the height of the #MeToo campaign, said Sondra Miller, president and chief executive of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Miller said the center has heard from distraught parents who found #MeToo on their children’s social media profiles and did not know how to respond. It has also heard from survivors who are feeling pressure to publicly share their own stories, even if they don’t feel they are in a “healthy place” to do that, she said. “We remind them they are under no obligation to share,” Miller said.

The hotline gets a lot of overnight calls, she said. “People are having trouble sleeping or having flashbacks or nightmares or anxiety or depression. They want someone to help them through the next few hours,” she said.

Rape crisis center managers say they are also seeing a surge in interest from people who want to help. Job and volunteer applications are up at many centers. Many are launching fundraising drives heading into the holiday season with hope that growing awareness about sexual assault will translate into contributions to boost their services.

The historic moment is also leading to some new programs.

RAINN, the national network, is developing online, moderated support groups for survivors. It also operates a hotline for a boarding school to coordinate therapy for former students who were assaulted as students, and it plans to launch other hotlines in contract with several other boarding schools.

The DCRCC this year, together with some other nonprofits, created a “Rethinking Masculinity” course for men who want to explore gender identities and promote healthier models of masculinity.

Lisae C. Jordan, executive director and counsel for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said she is hoping to channel the surge in interest from women’s groups, businesses and individuals into advocacy this year during the next legislative session in Annapolis.

Among other reforms, her organization is lobbying for a bill that would require local school districts to provide middle and high school students with age-appropriate lessons about the importance of obtaining consent before touching someone else.

Nationally, advocacy groups are hoping to secure more funding from Congress for prevention work this year through a program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program already funds educational programs around the country covering issues such as healthy relationships and bystander intervention.

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence found in a survey in late 2016 that 39 percent of rape crisis centers had a waiting list for prevention education.

Terri Poore, policy director for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said the increased demand in requests for these kinds of prevention programs is a very hopeful sign.

“We believe starting early is the best way to make change,” she said.