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Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities for local youth

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Some might ask, “Why sexual assault awareness month activities for teens?”

The facts are:

• Girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.)

• 10.8 percent of girls and 4.2 percent of boys from grades 9-12 were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

• 60.4 percent of female and 69.2 percent of male victims were first raped before age 18. (Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence Victimization.)

Common responses to teen victims may include:

• Unwillingness to report to law enforcement.

• Anxiety and fear due to threats of harm if she/he reports the assault.

• Belief that she/he won’t be believed if they report the assault.

• Lack of trust of authority figures and system-based services.

• She/he doesn’t identify the incident as sexual assault or as a crime.

• Self-blame, depression and low self-esteem.

• Self-destructive or suicidal behavior.

Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP) through Youth Violence Prevention aims to educate young people in our community about all aspects of violence that they might face as they navigate through their adolescent, teen and young adult years.

Teens in ACVAP programs have been actively working on projects to help raise awareness and educate their peers about unhealthy relationships, what to do to prevent getting into dangerous situations, and how to help their friends if they already are.

There will be a free barbecue on Wednesday, April 25, at 4 p.m. hosted by the Pagosa Springs Youth Center. Join our teens for dinner during what will sure to be lively discussions as they explore “That’s Not Cool” games and videos. That’s Not Cool is an interactive website that teaches young people how to draw their digital line with regard to relationships and technological abuse. You might even get a glimpse of Mr. or Miss Walkie Stalkie!

There will also be an 8-by-5-foot brick wall facade where everyone can fill in their personal brick with how they hope to break the wall of hate and intolerance one brick at a time. This is a mobile wall that will travel throughout the Four Corners region as part of the See It. Stop It. campaign to end violence in our lives and communities.

Following the barbecue, you can then join us at Liberty Theatre at 6 p.m. for a free presentation of the movie “Speak,” starring a vintage Kristin Stewart (Twilight movies). “Speak” is about a teenage girl who is raped at a party and is shunned by the majority of the student body after calling the police at the party. She spends most of her freshman year silenced and alone to deal with the psychological effects of her assault. This movie is rated PG-13. Discussion will follow in order to learn more about how everyone has the power to prevent sexual assault.

April 25 is also Denim Day, so be sure to wear your favorite jeans. ACVAP is celebrating Denim Day by starting at Bell Tower Park at noon for “Walk a Mile in Their Jeans.” This is not actually a mile-long walk, but a fun walk around the main city block. Denim Day is an international day honoring victims of sexual assault. This day was formed based on a judge’s misconception that a victim’s jeans were too tight, following which her rapist was released from jail.

For more information about these events, contact Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator, Liz Alley at (970) 799-2187.

Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program, a nonprofit agency, promotes the belief that all people have the right to live free from violence by providing support and advocacy services for victims and education for youth and our community.

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