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Sexual assault awareness for teens

The importance of preventing sexual assault for teens cannot be overestimated.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. Statistics tell us that girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. A U.S. Department of Justice study, “The Sexual Victimization of College Women,” stated that 20-25 percent of women will be raped or experience attempted rape during their college career.

In October of 2009, a California high school student was gang-raped outside of a school dance. Our nation was collectively horrified by the brutality of the rape, as well as the fact that a crowd of bystanders witnessed the crime and did nothing to stop it or alert the police. Instead, some bystanders even took pictures of the horrific violence on their cell phones. Perhaps some of those witnesses did not think they could intervene safely. Maybe they did not feel as if they or anyone else would be of any help in the situation. Only those individuals can respond as to why they chose to remain silent during an abominable crime.

Rape crisis centers across the nation are teaching the power and importance of safe and effective bystander intervention. This prevention education model focuses on empowering bystanders who can make a difference in stopping a culture of violence. Bystander intervention may be as simple as refusing to play a video game that condones violence against women or not laughing at an offensive, rape-accepting joke. Teaching young people to safely intervene as bystanders empowers youth to have the courage to reach out for help and ask for assistance from someone they trust.

We all have a role and a responsibility in preventing sexual violence. Parents and educators must teach students to respect boundaries and to ask for consent. Students must learn that they have the power and responsibility to safely intervene when they see or hear of violent acts.

Every year, April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. By working together, we can highlight sexual violence as a major public health issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.

One way you can get involved and show your support is by coming out for the fourth annual Walk A Mile In Their Shoes. This sexual assault awareness walk is a quick, refreshing walk while wearing someone else’s shoes. Men will wear women’s shoes. The highest heels win. Women will wear children’s or men’s shoes. Toe crunchers are a must! The walk begins at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 29. at the Methodist Thrift Store on Lewis Street. The walk isn’t quite a mile, and truly is a fun time to enjoy a quick jaunt while showing your support for survivors of sexual assault.

Also, specifically for our teens and young adults, you can improve yourself, your communication skills and your relationships with friends, bosses, other adults, and boy/girlfriend/partner by attending the new five-week series of Diamond Standards. Anyone between the ages of 15 and 29 can attend this innovative program that gives you skills many others have to struggle to figure out. And you can get them free Each workshop can personally gear you towards a happier, more productive future, while also earning up to $95 in incentives.

And, finally, you can make the difference in a survivor’s life by becoming a victim advocate. Our trained advocates work together with victims to help with their crisis needs, court needs, and healing needs.

Sexual assault is one of the most preventable crimes. Make an effort this month to learn more how you can be the key to ending this crime. For more information or details on our events, call the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program at 264-9075.