Duggar scandal renews focus on child sexual abuse, via The Kennebec Journal:

The issue of child sexual abuse rose to the surface abruptly last month when “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar admitted to repeatedly sexually abusing his sisters when he was a teenager. The results have included suspension of the reality TV show from the lineup of the TLC cable network and increased attention to child sexual abuse.

Among the issues that have been raised include sexual behavior problems by young people, and how parents and caregivers can respond appropriately.

Many of the most heart-wrenching cases at the Children’s Advocacy Centers involve families in which sibling abuse has occurred. Parents are distraught about the victimization of one child, while worried about the legal consequences to another child. The parents struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention to both the child victim and the child who committed the offense.

Staff at Children’s Advocacy Centers and their multidisciplinary teams can help families navigate this difficult time by serving as a gateway to services that can help victims heal.

Young people who have sexual behavior problems are more common than most people realize. In fact, 18 percent of the more than 315,000 sexual abuse cases seen by Children’s Advocacy Centers last year involved an offender younger than 18 — most often a sibling, cousin or friend from the neighborhood or school.

Among the many reasons children and teens may develop a sexual behavior problem are lack of privacy and boundaries, exposure to sexualized materials or environment, curiosity that gets out of hand and a sexual abuse history of their own.

Whatever the reason, however, it is critical to ensure these young people receive evidence-supported treatment to interrupt this cycle of behavior, so that all children in the home can be safe. If we can identify these issues and interrupt this behavior early and treat it appropriately, we as a society ultimately may prevent future child sexual abuse from occurring.

One excellent resource for parents and professionals is the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, which provides public awareness, training in evidence-based treatments and technical assistance, all tied to managing and responding to youth with problematic sexual behavior. Helpful information for parents and links to treatment providers also can be found through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a network of mental health experts in child trauma intervention.

Finally, and most importantly, at the heart of every child sexual abuse case is the child victim. We should not minimize the trauma child victims suffer as a result of abuse by other young people. Whether the offender is a sibling, friend or extended family member, the victims suffer a betrayal of trust and a loss of personal safety that is deeply wounding. Similar to other forms of child sexual abuse where the offender is within the family, these child victims struggle with both their fear of continued abuse and their love for the family member who has harmed them.

As a society, we have failed to protect these victims, and we owe them the treatment they need to heal, as well as our support as they go through the challenging healing process. Critical to that healing process is the privacy and space to heal outside of the media glare.

When the abuse is made public, as it was in the case of the Duggar family, the exposure can be as traumatic to the victims as the original abusive incident. Victims routinely report media attention as stressful, and many are ill-prepared for the consequences of such media scrutiny. The loss of privacy and control over this most intimate part of their life can mirror the loss of control felt at the time of the abuse.

Some adult survivors find speaking out about their experiences empowering. The common thread in this experience, however, is one of choice. The victim chooses to tell her or his story, exerted some control over the timing and narrative and is psychologically ready for such a public disclosure.

We all can help victims become survivors by sending a clear message to media that the names of victims should not be used without their permission, nor should they be hounded to tell “their side” of the story.

As executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kennebec and Somerset counties, I have witnessed the effects of countless cases of child sexual abuse over the years, I hope this most recent instance will draw additional attention to the issue of child sexual abuse and how we all are responsible for protecting our nation’s children.

I also encourage parents and caregivers to visit the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, and to learn more about the services offered by local Children’s Advocacy Centers. With more than 800 Children’s Advocacy Centers across the country and now including Maine, intervention and prevention services are readily available so those in similar situations to the Duggar family may seek the help and treatment they need and deserve.

(A 24-hour confidential sexual assault crisis and support line: 800-841-7741.)

Donna Strickler is executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center in Winthrop.

We need to stop rapists, not change who gets raped, by Jessica Valenti, via The Guardian:

What if rape reduction programs are actually just redirecting assault? A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that an anti-sexual assault program directed at first year female students in three Canadian colleges lowered women’s risk of being raped by half. For the women who took this course, that kind of reduction is amazing. But what about those who didn’t?

Jaclyn Friedman, former Impact self defense instructor and author of What You Really, Really Want, noted that the chances of permanently deterring a rapist is very low.

“Rapes are perpetrated by a tiny percentage of men who know what they’re doing and who rape again and again – they’re just going to find another target” she told me.

Friedman, who also co-edited an anthology on ending rape with me in 2008, said: “So just because these girls [who took the training] are less likely to be picked, it doesn’t mean there’s less rape on campus … This isn’t rape prevention, it’s rape protection.”

Certainly, the more women who receive trainings that have been proven to reduce their rape risk, the better – so it’s great to give money to programs like these and implement them where we can. But as Friedman noted: “unless the vast majority of women are getting this training, I don’t see how it makes a dent.”

The training program for freshman women not only included elements of self defense and risk-assessment, but a session on relationships, setting sexual boundaries and ways to “overcome emotional barriers to resisting the unwanted sexual behaviors of men who were known to them.” The students were contacted a year after their completed the program, and researchers found that their risk of rape was 5%; women who simply given brochures and a less comprehensive education had a rate of 10%.

This impressive reduction is reason to celebrate. But there is no easy answer to ending rape, and there’s a real danger in believing the solution to sexual assault is on the shoulders of women who might be attacked.

As Kathleen Basile from the Centers for Disease Control said in an editorial accompanying the study in the New England Journal of Medicine, as a sole solution this program “places the onus for prevention on potential victims, possibly obscuring the responsibility of perpetrators and others”. And in a world where rape victims are routinely blamed for the violence perpetrated against them, sending the message that stopping rape is women’s work is a slippery slope.

There are multiple ways to stop sexual assault among young people – and other programs that focus more on community responsibility have had just as much success. The Green Dot project, for example – which focuses on bystander intervention – showed a 50% reduction of sexual assault in 26 Kentucky high schools that participated in the program. Programs like this also have the added benefit of making ending rape all of our responsibility, not just women’s.

Those who participate learn what sexual assault looks like, the actions a potential perpetrator might take, and how to stop them. It means that a school full of people trained to know what a rapist acts like is much more likely to be able to remove rapists’ social license to operate, and take away their ability to rape within a community.

We need more than just one study and more than just one training to stop rape, not just on college campuses, but everywhere. Small, short-term solutions that work for some women are terrific and I hope we fund a lot of them. But what we need more are lasting solutions for all of us – solutions that don’t just change statistics, but the culture.

• This article was amended on 15 June 2015. An earlier version attributed a quote to Charlene Senn, the lead author of the study into the efficacy of an anti-sexual assault program in three Canadian colleges. In fact the quote was from Kathleen Basile of the Centers for Disease Control, who was writing in an editorial accompanying the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

After Josh Duggar revelations, 19 facts about child sexual abuse, via Bangor Daily News – Maine Focus:

News reports, blog posts, TV interviews, social media posts and more have covered recent reports of Josh Duggar, oldest of the Duggars to appear in their reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting,” admitting that as a juvenile he repeatedly sexually abused his sisters.

When high profile cases like these surface and more people become aware of child sexual abuse, it’s important to be clear about the facts surrounding the issue.

Here are 19 facts about child sexual abuse to keep in mind as media coverage continues.

  1. Over 50 percent of calls to Maine’s sexual assault crisis and support line relate to incidents of child sexual abuse. These calls range from concerned parents or caregivers to adult survivors of abuse.
  2. The majority of offenders are known to the child.
  3. Many child sexual abuse victims never tell, or delay telling, about the abuse. Many children do not tell because offenders successfully convince them that they will get in trouble or no one will believe them. The closer the relationship between the victim and the offender, the more difficult it is for the victim to come forward.
  4. Because child sexual abuse is so underreported, it can be difficult to understand the actual scope of the problem. Best available research suggests that one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of sexual abuse before they turn 18.
  5. There is no profile for someone who offends against children. Portrayals of sex offenders in popular culture may make us think that we could easily identify a sex offender. However, offenders are oftenrespected community members with access to children.
  6. Being sexually abused as a child does not cause people to become sex offenders.
  7. Juvenile sex offenders who access effective treatment generally do not go on to reoffend. Reoffending rates over several years of study show that about 10 percent of juveniles go on to reoffend.
  8. Child maltreatment (which includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect) cost the United States approximately $124 billion in 2008.
  9. The signs of child sexual abuse vary, and it’s important to recognize that the absence of signs and symptoms. For a list of signs and symptoms, visit the Maine Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers.
  10. Prevention is possible. We know that there are many risk and protective factors associated with child sexual abuse, and protective factors include a supportive family environment and social networks.
  11. Setting and respecting boundaries within a family, such as privacy in dressing, bathing, sleeping and other personal activities can help prevent abuse. This helps children understand the boundaries of others and helps them set their own.
  12. Using the proper names of body parts can help your child understand their body, open the door for them to ask questions, and provide a space for them to tell you about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.
  13. Demonstrating boundaries is a great way to show children how to say “no.” Teach children that their “no” will be respected, whether it’s in playing, tickling, hugging or kissing.
  14. There is such thing as age-appropriate sexual behavior. Being aware of these behaviors will help parents and concerned adults understand what is appropriate and what is not.
  15. It’s not up to the children in our lives to protect themselves from abuse. The evidence is clear that programming for children does not prevent child sexual abuse, but it is important because such programs provide children tools to respond if they are abused.Maine’s sexual assault support centers provide prevention programming to thousands of children each year.
  16. Adults can prevent child sexual abuse. If you are worried about another adult’s behavior, there are steps you can take, including learning about child sexual abuse and warning signs, learning to have conversations about the issue, and speaking up to create safety plans and make a report.
  17. There is support available to you, whether you experienced child sexual abuse yourself, you are worried about someone in your life who has, or you are concerned about a child in your life. Maine’s sexual assault support centers are available to answer questions and provide support and advocacy to you.
  18. In addition to sexual assault support centers, Maine has an increasing number of children’s advocacy centers, which are designed to bring law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy, and child advocacy together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child sexual abuse cases. Children’s advocacy centers help increase prosecution rates and reduce the cost of child sexual abuse investigations.
  19. The most effective kind of prevention happens before there is a victim to heal or an offender to punish.

The Duggar cases aren’t going to be the last high-profile child sexual abuse cases in the media. The first step toward prevention is knowing the facts – and working toward turning the tide of child victimization. We can pretend it’s the Duggar’s religion and culture, but let’s be real. It’s our culture, too.

Lady Gaga joins campaign to tackle sexual assaults on US campuses, via The Guardian:

Lady Gaga has penned an open letter alongside the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, to support a new law to protect university students from the “epidemic of sexual violence” on campuses.

“Every fall, young men and women head off to colleges across the country, dreaming of bright futures and the experience of a lifetime,” the piece, published on Billboard reads. “They’ve worked hard for the chance to become a part of their new campuses, and they set out full of hope and excitement.”

Unfortunately, for thousands of these students, that dream turns into a nightmare because of the unacceptable epidemic of sexual violence that is currently plaguing colleges and universities. It is a shocking reality that many in academia, government, and society in general still refuse to acknowledge.

On 17 June, New York lawmakers will decide whether to pass Cuomo’s Enough is Enough policy, which aims to combat sexual assault at all universities and private institutions in the state.

Lady Gaga, who told Howard Stern in 2014 that she had been sexually assaulted when she was 19 by a producer 20 years her senior, has backed the legislation. In the run up to the decision, Cuomo has been screening the documentary Hunting Ground, about sexual assault on college campuses. It features a new Lady Gaga song, Till It Happens to You.

The extract concludes:

“Thankfully, New York has an opportunity to stand up for its students, and take the critical steps toward facing this crisis head on. The bill currently beforeNew York state legislature will address the issue of sexual violence on college campuses, giving the state the nation’s strongest laws to target campus sexual assault. This is a campaign that will protect students, and it’s exactly what we need.

“By passing legislation such as the bill currently before the New York state legislature, we can turn the tide on this issue so that students can realise their dreams on campuses that are safe spaces. That’s why we are joining together to take a stand against sexual assault on college campuses. Quite simply, enough is enough.”

Relay for Relief!

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We want to thank Sarah Brouwer and Alana Chipman for organizing and holding the Relay for Relief event at Hebron Academy (Oxford County, Maine) this spring. They raised almost $1000 for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services! Relay for Relief was a 12 hour walk-a thon, inspired by the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The students involved created teams of 5-8 members and took the challenge of walking the track all night, with members of each teams taking turns. In the gym, students played basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, and Frisbee while other team members were on the track. There was plenty of dancing and video games during the evening as well. It is wonderful to see students taking action to make change for a better tomorrow in their community!

Meet our new Rural Educator/Advocate, Jackie!

JackieJackie Kandler joined the SAPARS staff in Franklin County as the Rural Educator/Advocate on June 1, 2015. She will be providing school-based education and advocacy services in the rural parts of Franklin County.
Jackie recently graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) with a Bachelor’s of Science in Community Health Education, and minors in Nutrition Education and Child and Adolescent Health. She completed her Internship at Western Maine Community Action, as the first Wellness Coach Intern where she focused on worksite wellness.

Originally from Massachusetts, Jackie just permanently moved to Maine. “I am very excited to be a part of the SAPARS team in Franklin County, and it gives me the chance to get to know the area even more!”

Welcome, Jackie!

Students March for Violence Free Communities, via The Daily Bulldog:

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FARMINGTON – For the previous 16 years, students and supporters have marched along Main Street to raise awareness for sexual and domestic violence.

This year was no exception, with students gathering outside the University of Maine at Farmington Olsen Student Center on South Street and marching through the downtown. A Speak Out even followed the march, after students returned to the student center’s North Dining Hall.

The event is held in conjunction with the end of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

 

 

(Thank you to everyone who participated, and to the UMF Campus Violence Prevention Coalition for your help in the planning process!)

Youths Learn from Media Portrayals, by Bridget McAlonan and Molly Nelson, via The SunJournal:

(Article 4 of 4 for Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

The media storm surrounding the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise is enormous and varied. So many opinions and beliefs are swirling and social media is clogged about the actions of main character Anastasia Steele.

Did she consent? Could she consent? Is this a portrayal of domestic violence and sexual assault, or two adults engaged in a consensual relationship?

During the hype, the educators at Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Center have used these questions to engage young people in dialog around sexual assault, healthy relationships and defining consent. Indeed, using media both maligned and loved is an important tool in sparking conversations with the public, especially teens and young adults.

In light of the ever-expanding technology waiting at our fingertips, engaging youth in critical thinking about media is an important tool in helping them understand and develop healthy relationships.

For instance, we encourage youth to analyze the ads they see on TV and to ask these questions: What are the selling tactics? How is sexuality used to sell a certain product? Does that make any sense and does it go too far? What roles do men and women play in this ad and are those appropriate or stereotypical?

That helps young people develop critical thinking about what they are being sold.

Those media portrayals help us educate young people while providing them with the tools to look at the world through a lens that examines what a healthy relationship looks like, how to achieve healthy relationships and also what an unhealthy relationship looks and feels like.

For the past year we have been handing out “I CONSENT” stickers to teens and young adults. This campaign has been hugely successful in educating others on what consent is and what it looks like in a sexual relationship. We also use movies to help young people further explore these concepts and illustrate healthy behavior.

One of those movies, “The Other Sister,” has a scene between the main characters that effectively demonstrates the idea of obtaining consent before becoming physically intimate. The characters in that movie have a conversation about their different comfort levels. One expresses the desire to engage in sexual activity right now, while the other is unsure and would like to wait. The partner who wishes to become intimate respects the other’s feelings and does not push or pressure them, thus providing a perfect model for respect in a healthy relationship.

These types of media examples can be helpful to young people who may not know how to start conversations about consent. Perhaps they are unsure what consent is. Perhaps they had no idea that they have the right to say “no” to things they may not want to do even when their partner would like to.

Offering education around consent by using the media often creates a safer environment for participants because the focus of the group is on the screen, not on the participants in the educational setting.

Our education and presentations around media are always followed up by an opportunity for participants to further explore those issues. Participants are given time to engage critical thinking skills in a safer environment.

That type of education can be greatly rewarding to the individuals we serve. Students often approach us later about a show or advertisement they saw and say things such as “Can you believe that guy in the movie who never even checked in with his partner before having sex with them when they obviously looked uncomfortable?”

Hopefully, these conversations also happen between peers — kids challenging their friends to think about what they are consuming in the media and how that affects their perceptions and behaviors.

While many people had strong opinions on the “Fifty Shades” series, SAPARS educators have opted to keep talking about the issues we always have: healthy relationships, sexual assault, gender issues, consent and how to think critically about the information, images and concepts presented to us through the multitude of media we encounter.

Bridget McAlonan and Molly Nelson are educator/advocates at Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

17th annual March for Violence-Free Communities!

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For the previous 16 years, we have gathered at the gazebo in downtown Farmington, then marched to the Speak Out at the Old South Church. This year, on Wednesday, April 29th, at 5:30 PM, we will be beginning and ending at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF)! Participants will gather outside of the Student Center on South Street, and the Speak Out will take place in the North Dining Hall inside of the Student Center.

If desired, all participants will have the opportunity to speak out and share their thoughts and feelings on the issues surrounding all forms of violence.

There is a new coalition at UMF called the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC). This Coalition is composed of students, faculty, and staff, and their mission is to promote a safe campus by reducing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Those involved with CVPC are excited to help plan, and bring the March to their school.

Light refreshments will be served.

Keynote speaker: TBA