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Sexual Assault and Teenagers

teendepression2013Sexual violence affects all communities, even ours. Recent events and conversations about sexual assault at East Chapel Hill High School remind us of this.

The increased attention on campus sexual assault in the past few years has been a crucial conversation for a university town like ours. Yet the story that has largely been missed is the enormous risk faced by high school teens.

Girls ages 16-19 face four times more risk of being sexually assaulted than the general population (RAINN.org). Boys, too, face an increased risk of sexual assault in childhood and adolescence.

When allegations of sexual assault involving teens surface in the news, it leaves parents, students and teachers scrambling for answers. How do we make sense of this? How can we respond? And what can be done to prevent this? Our community deserves an opportunity to come together for healing and learning.

The Orange County Rape Crisis Center partners with local middle and high schools to provide sexual assault prevention programs. We also offer community education programs, such as the upcoming Sexual Assault in Teen Lives: A Community Conversation about Response and Prevention. Parents, students and community members are welcome to join us on Thursday, December 17, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Chapel Hill Public Library for this free event. We will discuss skills for responding to trauma and provide an opportunity to reflect on the role each of us plays in prevention.

Trained Companions will be available for crisis counseling and service referrals. And as always, if you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence and could benefit from support or resources, please don’t hesitate to call us at 866-WE-LISTEN.

Rachel Valentine is our Director of Community Education at the Center. She works with youth, parents, and professionals to prevent sexual violence in our community.

This originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Chapel Hill News.

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