Tag Archives: teens

Grants & Summer Programming for SAPARS

We are pleased to announce that we have received the following grants to support our work.

Maine Women’s Fund has provided funding to support “Bridging the Gap.” During the school year, students in high schools (and some middle schools) can obtain services from a SAPARS advocate through our school based drop in programs. This program allows students to meet with an advocate during the school day at the school, thus minimizing barriers for students to access services. The “Bridging the Gap” project is designed to continue that access to SAPARS services by establishing drop in programs in the communities during the summer months. Those drop in sites will be at various locations and various times, and will allow for students to seek or continue to access support services throughout the summer. For more information, see the “Summer Services” section of this newsletter.

The Betterment Fund has awarded a three year grant to SAPARS to help support our Rural Educator/Advocate who will be working in the areas of Franklin County outside of the greater Farmington area. The Rural Educator/Advocate will be providing prevention education programming in the schools, and will also be establishing service sites in communities of western and northern Franklin County so that residents of those communities will have better access to sexual assault services without having to travel to our office in Farmington.

The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault has awarded 3 Rape Prevention Education “mini grants” to SAPARS. One of the grants will fund training for Resident Assistants at Central Maine Community College (in Auburn) to support ongoing prevention programming with their students.  Our College Advocate, Sabrina Yocono, will train the RA’s and provide them with materials and support do continue doing prevention education using materials from the Backbone Zone curriculum. Trainings will also be offered to faculty/staff and non-residential students.

The second grant will fund a project working with Upward Bound Students at UMF over the summer. This project will provide prevention education training to the Bridge student leaders of Upward Bound, using the scenario based prevention training of the University of Maine system. Those Bridge students will then provide the training to the other Upward Bound students throughout the summer months. At the end of the training, the Upward Bound participants (including the Bridge students) will develop a project of their choosing to reflect the information they have received and which can be shared with the larger campus community.

The third project is a media literacy project occurring in Androscoggin and Oxford Counties which will engage youth age 13+ in developing and using critical thinking skills when presented with images and stories through media outlets. Four movies will be viewed, followed by facilitated discussions about the themes in the movies. Those themes include healthy relationships, consent and sexual assault; sexual harassment; internet safety and online bullying; and gender roles as they relate to sexual violence. Participants will then help create youth focused/issue focused boards on our social media sites (Pinterest, Tumblr) and mini PSA’s that can be broadcast via local radio stations. This program will be available at Lewiston High School, Lisbon High School, Oak Hill High School, the Auburn Library and through the Norway Library.

Summer Programming:

With schools out for the summer, SAPARS is providing a wide range of services for youth during the summer months. Our goal is to continue our education efforts with youth and to provide greater access to our support services during the summer months. Below is a list of activities/service sites for youth.

Media Literacy Project:

The media literacy project (described above) will be held at  Lisbon High School (beginning 6/22), Lewiston High School (beginning 6/30), Oak Hill High School (beginning 6/24), the Auburn Library Teen Center (beginning 7/2), and through the Norway Library and New Beginnings. For specific dates and times for programming through the Norway location, please call (207) 743-9777.  For dates and times in Androscoggin County, call (207) 784-5272.

Drop In Service Sites:

For the summer months, we will have an Advocate at various locations, accessible to young people so that they can access crisis and support services close to home.

In Androscoggin County, drop in programs will be available at Lewiston High school, Lisbon High School, Oak Hill High School, Auburn Library Teen Center, New Beginnings, and Poland High School. For dates and times, call (207) 784-5272. Support groups will continue at both locations of Beckett House.

Drop in sites in Oxford County will be at the Norway Memorial Library, Common Ground Counseling in Fryeburg, the Peru Community Building and the Rumford college campus. For more information, call (207) 743-9777.

Drop in sites in Franklin County will be at the libraries in Rangeley and Phillips, and at the Jay Town Office. Other possible sites are under development. For more information, call (207) 778-9522.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

What we can do about teen dating violence, via The Bangor Daily News: Maine Focus:

Hooking up. Hanging out. Facebook official. Regardless of what teens call their romantic and/or sexual relationships, teens deserve to be happy, healthy and safe. Teen dating violence is a significant problem in Maine communities, and everyone has a role to play in its prevention and intervention.

Approximately 9 percent of high school students have been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or a girlfriend within the last year. This number does not account for the verbal, sexual or emotional abuse teens also face in abusive relationships.So what do we do about it?

Like many victims of domestic and sexual violence, teens who experience dating violence may feel confused by what is going on in their relationship, and they may not know they are experiencing abuse.

The first step is helping young people understand how to tell a healthy relationship from an unhealthy one. Teens need to know the warning signs of abuse, but they also need to know what a healthy, safe relationship looks like. Most young people have seen models of unhealthy relationships at one time or another, so it is doubly important that we speak with them explicitly about what healthy relationships look like and how to treat a partner with respect and caring.

Students in schools across Maine are learning about healthy relationships, healthy sexuality and being an engaged bystander, which are key components to preventing teen dating violence. Thousands of students a year learn the skills and behaviors that help them to prevent, recognize and respond to relationship violence. Maine’s domestic and sexual violence prevention educators provide education to students across the state that is informed by national best practices and evidence-based curriculums.

The next step is to help peers and caring adults step up as engaged bystanders. More than half of America’s teens know someone who has experienced some form of relationship violence. So peers – friends, classmates and other students at school – have a role to play in helping identify unhealthy behaviors and getting their friends the help they need. Parents and other trusted adults – teachers, guidance counselors, friends’ parents – can be engaged bystanders, too. Having difficult conversations with the teenagers in your life is among the many powerful tools adults have to help make sure teens and communities are safe. It also models the importance of being an engaged bystander, which helps reinforce what teens are learning at school.

We are accountable to each other in our communities to educate one another, to have each other’s backs, and to stand up for others who may not be able to stand up for themselves. In many instances, we can help address problems that may have lifelong consequences for our teens. We owe it to the youth in our communities not only to be aware of teen dating violence, but to work to prevent it. Regardless of whether the teens in your life have made their relationship Facebook official, there is a way for them to be happy, healthy and safe.

Have you been an engaged bystander to the teen in your life today?

***

Regina Rooney is the public awareness coordinator for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and Cara Courchesne is the communications director for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Supporting teen survivors

7 ways to help a teen survivor of sexual assault, via Everyday Feminism:

(Trigger Warning)

It is devastating to discover that a teen you love has been a victim of sexual violence. When faced with their pain and confusion, you may find yourself feeling powerless to help. If the victim is your own child, the sense of grief can be consuming.

Remember, you are not alone. Other parents and allies have walked this healing path and can help guide you and your loved one through recovery.

As the Founder and Director of Survivor Healing and Empowerment, a healing community for survivors of rape, abuse and domestic minor sex-trafficking, I want you to know that there are many ways you can compassionately support the teen survivor in your life.  44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, so we need to carefully assess the unique needs of young men and women who have endured this trauma. Some of the resources I share will be more applicable to teen girls, but many of these suggestions serve survivors of all gender identities.

Here are are 7 tips to help begin this journey to wholeness:

1. Encourage your loved one to express herself. Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression. Psychologist Dana C. Jack calls depression “the silencing of the self.” Consider finding a counselor who integrates expressive arts therapies (such as art, music or dance therapy). Creative expression helps teens connect with and process the truth of their experience. Writing as A Way of Healing by Louise A. DeSalvo and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron are excellent sources of encouragement for a survivor who wants to heal through creative expression.

2. Help her explore contemplative practices. A contemplative practice quiets the mind in order to cultivate a personal capacity for deep concentration and insight. Examples include yoga, tai chi, meditation and prayer. This is particularly helpful in healing dissociation, a way that trauma victims disconnect from their experience in order to survive. If your loved one has been abused by a religious figure or someone affiliated with your spiritual community, don’t push religion as a source of healing. Give her space to discover their own spiritual path.

3. Visit the website for Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network. Through this site you can search for your local rape crisis center and learn more about sexual assault. Direct your teen to the Online Hotline, an instant messaging section where she will be connected with a trained advocate who will answer any of her questions. After connecting with your local crisis center, research recovery groups and ask for referrals. She needs to know that she is not alone. Hearing the stories of other survivors helps to heal self-blame and shame. I also highly recommend Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse by Dr. Patti Feuereisen as a recovery companion.

4. Engage her in discussions about the media. Help her dismantle messages that reinforce sexual objectification. Verbal abuse expert, Patricia Evans, says that verbal abuse occurs when someone “tells lies about who you are.” Mainstream media constantly tells lies about who girls are. Make sure that she can critically engage with representations of girls and women that emphasize their value as sexual commodities. For excellent feminist critiques of pop culture in a teen-friendly space, check out Bitch Magazine. SPARK is an innovative organization helping girls differentiate between sexuality and sexualization.

5. Talk about healthy relationships. Surviving sexual assault is one of greatest predictors for your teen to eventually experience some form of relationship violence. Be pro-active in discussing the difference between an abusive and a respectful relationship. Model this in your own life and refer her to loveisrespect.org as well as the sex-positive teen site Scarleteen.com.

6. Honor her boundaries. Ask for permission before touching or hugging the survivor. It is important that she feel in control of her body at all times. You can discuss safety planning, but make sure that you do not take away her freedoms out of your own fear. Check out the Circle of 6, a cutting-edge app that will help her stay safe.

7. Never blame the survivor. Remind her that it is not her fault. She did whatever she needed to in order to survive. Ultimately, the greatest gift you can give is to be a patient, empathetic listener. To learn the basics of empathetic listening, read a book such as Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD.

Be gentle with yourself and your teen during this time of recovery. Self-care is essential for both of you. Do not hesitate to reach out to a counselor or rape crisis center for support as you process what has happened. Sexual assault is devastating, but there is hope for those who choose a healing path.

Prevention education needs to start early

Forced sexual contact common among teens, study suggests, via NBC News:

From a hastily forced kiss to outright rape, violent or at least coerced sexual contact may be worryingly common among teens and young adults, researchers reported Monday.

They found 9 percent of youths aged 14 to 21 admitted to some kind of forced sexual contact, using tactics from guilt to threats and actual physical force. Half blamed their victims.

Four percent of the more than 1,000 young men and women surveyed admitted to having raped someone else, the researchers report in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Pediatrics.

But most who tried or completed rape said they didn’t use physical force – 63 percent of those who said they had forced someone to have sex against their will said they used guilt as their main tactic, while 32 percent said they used arguments and other verbal pressure.

And the problem behavior tends to really begin at around age 16, said Michele Ybarra of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research in San Clemente, California and Kimberly Mitchell of the University of New Hampshire.

Ybarra says the study doesn’t paint the whole picture and she says the findings should encourage other researchers to dig a little deeper into questions about sexual behavior in the teen years, and whether it’s possible to predict and even prevent sexual violence.

What is clear is that many teens are not getting the message that ‘no’ means no, she said.

“What we wanted to find was the intent to get somebody to do something sexually when they knew the person did not want to do it,” Ybarra said in a telephone interview.

It’s hard to know just how common the problem really is, or how representative the teens and young adults in the survey are of the whole population. They’d all been taking part in a broader survey of teen use of violent media that started in 2006, when most were about 12, Ybarra and Mitchell say.

“We know that adolescence is an important time when these types of behavior emerge,” Ybarra said.

The questions are very detailed and do not include words such as “rape”. The teens were asked questions such as “In the last 12 months, how often have you kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to?”

The teens were allowed to answer the questions online so they could do so in privacy – the hope being that they would answer more honestly than if they feared they were being monitored. Harris interactive helped conduct the poll; the study was paid for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parents had to give their permission for the teens to take part, so that limited how many responded, Ybarra notes. Nonetheless, the results were startling.

“Nine percent of youths reported some type of sexual violence perpetration in their lifetime: 8 percent kissed, touched, or made someone else do something sexual when the youth knew the other person did not want to (ie, forced sexual contact); 3 percent got someone to give into sex when he or she knew the other person did not want to have sex; 3 percent attempted but were not able to force someone to have sex (ie, attempted rape); and 2 percent forced someone to have sex with him or her (ie, completed rape).”

Youths who reported seeing more violent sex online, in magazines, on television or at the movies were more likely to commit violent sexual acts. “It’s a marker for concern,” Ybarra said.

Other studies have shown that between 64 percent and 96 percent of rapes in the United States never get reported to authorities, and that between 6 percent and 15 percent of men of mostly college age admit to having committed acts that meet the legal definition of rape.

Ybarra said the findings show a lot more effort is needed to prevent sexual assaults. “We, as a society, need to take more responsibility to identify perpetrators and implement programs in schools,” she said. Parents need to teach kids about healthy sex, young people need to speak up when friends describe either being victims or perpetrators of forced sex and schools need more programs to help teach youngsters about acceptable behavior, she says.

Scott Berkowitz, CEO of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), says rapists tend to start their violent behavior in their teens. “Because so few cases are ever reported to police and successfully prosecuted, they tend to keep going,” Berkowitz said in a telephone interview.

And teens are by far the most vulnerable age group to being attacks. “Nearly half of all victims in the country are under 18 when they are victimized, so this is quite common among youth,” Berkowitz said,

Sexual exploitation of teens in the media

Granted, teenage sexualization is nothing new in the media, but at least it is being discussed.

Some people may like to argue that the actresses are generally in their 20’s, and therefore, it is “okay” for them to be portrayed sexually, but it is also important to realize that they are representing underage girls…not 20 something’s.

(Note: all teen genders tend to be exploited sexually in the media, not just females; however, this article is only representative of females).

____________________________

Via CBS News:

“Female TV characters are sexual targets, says new study”

Teenage female characters are sexual fodder for broadcast network TV series, especially comedies, according to an advocacy group’s new study.

An examination of 238 sitcoms and dramas airing during four weeks in 2011 and 2012 found a third of the episodes included content that “rose to the level of sexual exploitation” of females, according to the Parents Television Council report released Tuesday.

The likelihood that a scene would include exploitation increased when a teen girl was involved, the report found, as did the odds that a show would try for a laugh: Girls were more likely to be the target of sexually exploitive jokes than adult women, 43 percent as compared to 33 percent.

The instances cited by the report varied widely, from an adolescent boy and girl playing strip poker in an episode of “Glee” to jokes spun off the topics of sexual violence, harassment and trafficking, according to the group’s researchers.

“At what point in time is it OK to laugh at sexual trafficking or rape?” council President Tim Winter said.

The PTC said its study relied on a United Nations’ definition of sexual exploitation as involving abuse of a position of vulnerability, power, or trust for sexual purposes including profiting financially, socially or politically.

Winter contended that it’s a certainty: An industry that attracts billions of ad dollars meant to influence buying habits must acknowledge that it has an impact on viewers, especially youngsters, he said.

Among the sitcom humor cited by the report: A May 2012 episode of “Family Guy” in which teenager Meg appears onstage and an announcer says, “This girl is perfect if you want to buy a sex slave, but don’t want to spend sex slave money.”

“Young people are having difficulty managing the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate sexual conduct,” and TV’s confusing messages are one reason, said the Rev. Delman Coates, a PTC board member.

The report is the council’s third in a series about media sexualization of young girls. Last year, the nonpartisan group launched its 4 Every Girl initiative aimed at combating such depictions and replacing them with what it calls “healthy, respectful images.”

The latest study reveals “the frequency with which sexual humor is used to communicate beliefs and perpetuate offensive narrowly defined female stereotypes among underage girls,” according to a PTC summary.Bottom of Form

Broadcasters compete with cable channels that draw viewers away with far more explicit material. Critics have said that it’s unfair to study broadcast content and not include the unregulated programming on cable, or to ignore that viewers demonstrate what they want by tuning in risque shows.

The report’s release, intended for last year, was delayed by the PTC’s decision to focus its resources on the subject of violence in media after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Networks also weren’t heard from on that PTC study, which was released last May and found that violence remained a prime-time TV staple even immediately following Newtown.

TV executives typically are reluctant to talk about sensitive issues such as violence or sexuality and, when pressed, downplay the link between on-screen fare and real-life behavior. They’ve also questioned aspects of PTC’s methodology.

The new study, for instance, includes scenes from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” a drama that focuses on those trying to stop sexual predators.

Winter said it’s important to distinguish between the treatment the topic receives in that show compared to a comedy, but added that “there still need to be heightened scrutiny” of the effect on viewers.

He called for a broad dialogue about media content and its effect, and renewed the PTC’s insistence that the Federal Communications Commission enforce its “safe harbor” rule barring indecency or profanity from airing during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Responsibility of the community to keep children safe

Every Sunday throughout April, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services will have a guest column in the SunJournal. Each column will discuss a different aspect of sexual violence, as well as prevention & education efforts.

Here is the 4th and final article from one of our our Education Coordinators!

I walk into a first-grade classroom with an armload of 30 makeshift hula hoops shaped like a raindrop rather than a circle. They are blue and have a mass of silver duct tape at the point of the raindrop shape.

The students in the class are smiling and quietly say to each other and to me “Space Ships!”

These “space ships” are one of the tools that we have been using since 2007 to teach the self-empowerment and personal space to children in elementary school. In some schools, by the spring of first grade, a child will have “played” with these space ships three times.

Teaching children about personal body safety and sexual abuse prevention is a careful endeavor. At Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, we approach the issue by teaching different concepts that build on one another and create a firm foundation before we even start talking specifically about sexual harassment or sexual assault.

The first concept we teach is that of personal body space.

By using the “spaceships,” we take a theoretical concept and make it visual, so all the children can “see” it and understand it.

They can see that we move through our day and our need for personal body space might change depending on circumstance, or on which person we are interacting with.

The space ships allow the children to experience the concept of their own personal body space and respect the right of each other to maintain that space. This activity also helps children to understand and learn about healthy boundaries and consent — key concepts in sexual assault prevention.

By third grade, we focus our presentations on team work and interdependence. Using games designed to encourage the students to maintain their own individual personal space while being part of a group, we explore concepts of leadership, group dynamics and how to problem-solve in a fair and positive way so that all members of a team feel included and are safe.

We also talk about their responsibility to one another, which lays the groundwork for conversations about how to be a proactive bystander and help other students when it looks like they are being hurt.

Our presentations in fourth grade explicitly focus on gossip, rumors and bystander behaviors.

Again, using games to explore these concepts, the students are able to meet and address these potentially scary concepts in a developmentally appropriate and fun fashion.

We give the students a tube of toothpaste and ask them to squeeze it out onto a paper plate. We can then talk about what a mess it made. Then we ask them to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Of course they cannot get more than a dab back in the tube.

We can then begin the discussion about how words can make a mess and that, once said, they cannot be taken back. This helps us to talk with the students about bullying and what a mess it can create and how it cannot be undone.That lays a solid foundation for later presentations about appropriate Internet/social media use.

In fifth and sixth grades, we actively engage the students in conversations about Internet safety and harassment issues.

Because they have had all of the concept and skill-building presentations in prior years, they have the ability to apply those lessons to these very important topics and understand them in a more fundamental way.

Throughout these presentations, we talk with the students about the importance of getting help from a grownup when they or someone else is being hurt or in danger of being hurt. We help them to identify who those grownups might be, and what they should expect in the way of help from those adults.

All of our presentations can be presented as stand-alone material, but we find that they work best all together. Our presentations build upon each other, creating a framework of understanding, built year after year.

We believe it is the responsibility of the community to help keep our children safe from harm.

While it is the adults who should be responsible for sexual abuse prevention, our programs provide our children with the concepts and skills necessary to help keep themselves safe. And, they teach children lifelong skills that will help them each to understand and seek out safe, healthy relationships.

Bridget McAlonan is the SACC Education Coordinator for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

Be Aware, Not Afraid

(A guest blog, written by Maggie P., a Practicum student at SAVES, the Franklin County office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services.  Thank you, Maggie!)

As a female, I have always been taught to recognize and defend myself against those who may cause me harm.  For example, my parents started telling me from a young age to not walk alone at night, to avoid unfamiliar places, and to keep my guard up at all times when interacting with strangers.  This dialogue is common among adolescent females and their protectors, so I never thought anything of it.  As I have grown older, and have become more aware of the world around me, the idea of my parents telling me to be constantly afraid seems ridiculous.  When I came to college at the University of Maine at Farmington, I was given a “rape whistle” in my orientation packet.  It was a joke among my friends, and no one took the tool seriously, especially because there was a $25 fine if you blew it when not in crisis.  I just learned recently, however, that only females were given these whistles; male students had the option as to whether or not they wanted one.  Seriously?  I took this information to be very offensive, as did the other females I was with who found out.  I understand that the university is just trying to protect their female students, but to only assume that we would be the victim of rape or sexual violence is absolutely absurd.  Many people associate sexual violence with the female gender because we are most often seen as vulnerable and, statistically, we are the majority of the victims.  People seem to overlook the fact that 1 in 5 males will be the victim of some sort of sexual violence other than rape at some point in their lifetime (Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault).  I don’t know whether this is due to a lack of education or people’s own choice to overlook the fact, but sexual violence can happen to anyone.  In high schools and universities, this statement should be reinforced.  Maybe this would open young people’s eyes to the severity of sexual violence among all genders, races, and ages.  Education is the best way to prevent sexual violence; not encouraging young females to constantly be on guard and on the defense.  When I was in high school, I don’t remember any lessons in my health class that focused on sexual violence or rape.  I understand that some people still see it as a taboo subject, but without education there can be no progression.  If we continue to just reinforce the defense method to young adult females, and completely ignore young adult males, sexual assault statistics are never going to change.  Schools need to implement education programs, get facts to their students, and encourage the younger generations to be aware instead of just afraid.

 

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Throughout this month, our School-Based Advocates will be working with local area teens to educate and raise awareness around the issues.

National Statistics: 

* Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year
* 1 in 3 teens in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence
* 1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend
* 1/4 of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse

[For Teens]:

*  If you are in an abusive relationship…please talk to somebody that you trust:  parent, teacher, etc.  It’s okay to get help.
*  Know that it’s not your fault, and that you are not alone.  You deserve to be happy, and feel loved.  “Love is NOT abuse.”

[For Parents – tips for talking to your teens about healthy relationships]:

* Share the facts about healthy relationships…be sure to listen respectfully to your teen’s answer, even if you don’t agree. Then you can offer your opinion and explore other options together
* Set rules for dating…as kids get older, they gain more independence and freedom. However, teens still need parents to set boundaries and expectations for their behavior.
* Be a role model…you can teach your kids a lot by treating them and others with respect.
* Talk to your kids about sex…teach your children the facts about their bodies, sex, and relationships. Talking to your kids about sex may not be easy, but it’s important. You can help them stay healthy and make good choices as they grow up.
* Talk to your teen about any concerns…write down the reasons you are worried. Listen to your teen calmly, and thank him/her for opening up.

(Sources: healthfinder.gov & teendvmonth.org)