Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Month

Every child deserves a great childhood.  Every individual deserves to be safe.  These are basic human rights.  These are things we can agree.  

But if you’re not abusing or neglecting your own children – or if you or a family member has never been sexually assaulted – you may be thinking the ‘prevention message’ isn’t relevant to you.  And with our increasingly busy schedules you may be wondering how you can have the time or expertise to prevent child abuse and sexual assault.  

Your questions and reservations are valid.  Your intentions are good.  You are compassionate and caring and make every effort to help those in need. So how can you make a difference when you are already stretched thin and unsure how to help?

It is the goal of Tahoe SAFE Alliance to educate and empower our community and bring everyday consciousness to the prevention of domestic violence, sexual violence, and child abuse.  Having a month dedicated to awareness and prevention is a start but having prevention interwoven into the fabric of our daily rhythms empowers each individual to have an impact.

The first thing we can all do to prevent child abuse and sexual violence is be aware of the facts.  One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday; only 10% of abuse is by a stranger which means it’s someone inside a family’s network.   And, as our children grow up and go off to school their chance of rape and sexual assault increases; one in 5 girls will be sexually assaulted while in college.  Again, 80% of all sexual assaults are by someone the victim knows.  

While these numbers are staggering, there are things you can do right now to make a difference.  Here are five prevention tips and resources that will help you make an impact today:

       1. Be aware of the signs of child abuse and how to report. Signs include depression, anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, and lack of appetite.  The Mayo Clinic offers a comprehensive list at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/child-abuse/basics/symptoms/con-20033789.  To report child abuse call 911 or contact your local Child Protective Services agency. 

      2. Pay attention to parents around you and offer practical kindness.  Your compassion may provide the crucial pause a frazzled parent needs to keep calm.  This is especially true for new parents.

   3. Talk to your children about the 5 body safety rules that every child should know before age 5.  If you need a refresher or tips on how to have this conversation, a great resource is www.mamabeareffect.org

   4. Talk to your teen, both male and female, about sex and sexual assault.  While this conversation is stressful for many parents, it is important to keep this an on-going dialogue.  Topics should include age of consent, drugs and alcohol, trusting your gut, sexual assault and violence within a relationship, and ensuring them it’s not their fault if they experience a sexual assault.  Great resources include www.loveisrespect.org, www.rainn.org.

5. Believe children if they disclose to you.  Even if they are not your own.  A common reaction is denial but it is important to listen, be non-judgmental, and respect what the child is saying.  If it is a teen or adult that discloses, let them know it was not their fault and give them the number to a local Sexual Assault Agency.  For 8 tips on what to do if a child discloses abuse go to: http://www.speakupbesafe.org/parents/disclosures-for-parents.pdf

As you strive to create great childhoods for those in your own family, don’t neglect the childhoods in bloom all around you.  Together we can prevent child abuse and sexual assault in our community.

Dawn Harris
Fund Development and Outreach Manager
Tahoe SAFE Alliance

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Prevention Education Plays Important Role in Reducing Effects of Dating Violence on North Lake Tahoe and Truckee Teens

February is national Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month.  National statistics show that 1 in 3 teens experience teen dating violence.  Last year, Tahoe SAFE Alliance conducted a survey in Truckee, North Tahoe and Incline High Schools and the results indicated that 80% of students knew someone in an unhealthy relationship. 
Even though teen and young adult relationships may be different from adult relationships, young people do experience the same types of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse that adults do.  This comes in the form of jealousy, controlling behavior like constant texting and checking up on a partner, isolating a partner from family and friends, verbal abuse, making a partner perform a sexual act that they are not comfortable with, and physical abuse like slapping, pushing, and other violent behavior. 
Tahoe SAFE Alliance is helping to reduce the effects on dating violence on area teens through their comprehensive Prevention Program.  Through collaboration with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and Incline Schools in Washoe County, the non-profit organization provides age-appropriate presentations on violence prevention and facilitates Youth Empowerment and Leadership Groups in middle and high schools.  These groups are designed to provide a safe environment for students to discuss topics relevant in their lives with a focus on safety, healthy relationships, respect, anger management, and positive communication.   Last year, 190 students participated in Youth Empowerment Groups facilitated by Tahoe SAFE Alliance.  Tahoe SAFE Alliance also helps staff the Wellness Centers at North Tahoe and Truckee High Schools where teens can talk one-on-one with staff in a safe, empowering, and non-judgmental setting. 
“I’ve been in the group for a few weeks and we talk about all kinds of things like jealousy, dating and expectations, control and power, love and respect, and how to set boundaries.  This group has given me a lot of insight and Tahoe SAFE Alliance has helped me to begin talking about these things with my girlfriend.  They have given me confidence and I feel in better control of my feelings.” 15 year old male student at North Tahoe High School.
While Tahoe SAFE Alliance’s Prevention Program is making an impact in the schools and on our youth and teens, parents are active participants in violence prevention and education. For parents who have children beginning to date, it’s important to talk to them about the responsibility of dating and the importance of being in a partnership that is equal, honest, supportive, and respectful of boundaries.  Fear, peer pressure and lack of resources can make a teen feel trapped in a violent relationship.  Online resources like Love is Respect, www.loveisrespect.org, provides valuable information and tool for parents and teens to learn about things like dating basics, understanding signs of an unhealthy relationship, and resources to get help including an online chat.  Tahoe SAFE Alliance also operates a 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-736-1060.   
Interested in Volunteering?
Tahoe SAFE Alliance’s Youth Empowerment Groups are 10-week groups facilitated by Tahoe SAFE Alliance educators and certified volunteers. For community members interested in helping us make an impact on area youth, we offer a 68-hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) in the spring and fall.  Spring CIT begins in April.  Certification allows community members to volunteer in direct client programs such as Prevention.  For more information about volunteering please go to www.tahoe safealliance.org or call 775-298-0010. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Domestic Violence is Hard to Talk About. It's Up to All of Us to Listen.

During the first quarter of the Super Bowl on Sunday, a public service announcement aired; the first Super Bowl ad to call for action to end domestic violence and sexual assault.  It sent a poignant message that although domestic violence can be hard to talk about, it is up to ALL of us to listen.

The Super Bowl ad was a collaboration of the National Football League and the NO MORE (violence) campaign (www.nomore.org).  The NFL paid for the production costs and the air time which was over $4 million dollars.  It's great that the NFL is using their public platform to raise awareness of this issue and to get it out in front of millions of homes in America. 

Historically, domestic violence was considered a private family matter with little concern to the larger community.  Now, it's a social, psychological, economic, and criminal justice matter.  One in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her life time, and 1 in 3 women die everyday at the hand of their abuser.  It is only through awareness, education, and conversation that we can shatter the silence and taboo's that surround domestic violence, and create a community that does not tolerate violence in any form.

Here are a few quick tips to help you speak up about these issues and provide you with ways you can help loved ones affected by domestic violence or sexual assault:

1.  Start a conversation by telling your children, friends, and family that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced domestic violence and 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men have experienced sexual assault at some point in their lifetime.  This is a great way to get the point across that these issues are serious and that many people we love have been affected by domestic and sexual violence.

 2.  Speak up when you hear offensive comments that degrade women, men, or victims of abuse.  The best thing you can do is speak up and tell them that you're not comfortable with that kind of talk.  Simply doing that can help your friends understand that it's not cool for them or anyone to degrade a person.

3.  If someone you know discloses that they are experiencing abuse now or have in the past, remember this could be the first time they're telling someone.  Reassure them that you believe them and that the abuse was not their fault. The most important thing you can do in this moment is listen and support them.

Most of all, make sure to be patient, non-judgemental, and respectful of their decisions.  Ask them if they'd like to talk to a professional counselor, and offer to sit with them while they call a national or local hotline.  Tahoe SAFE Alliance offers a 24-hour/7-days-a-week hotline: 1-800-736-1060.

4.  Make sure that your friends know whom to call to get help.  Tahoe SAFE Alliance is your local domestic violence and sexual assault agency.  We have offices in Incline Village, Kings Beach and Truckee.  For more information visit www.tahoesafealliance.org.