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Tue, Oct. 22

Piacenza: Troubling topic deserves attention

Two teen-centered programs recently collaborated to conduct a conference on a topic as important to adults as to their young constituents. The Launch Pad Teen Center and Boys to Men Mentoring group sponsored the Sexual Violence Awareness Conference held Nov. 10 at the Prescott Adult Center. The conference included presentations, workshops and a panel discussion.

Sexual violence is any sexual conduct that occurs without consent. The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence reports:

• 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime [CDC, 2010]

• 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men will experience unwanted sexual contact [WCSAP, 2014]

• 1 In 8 lesbian women have been raped in their lifetime [CDC, 2010]

• 4 in 10 gay men have been raped in their lifetime [CDC, 2010]

• Women with disabilities are raped and abused at a rate at least twice that of the general population [NCDSV, 2015]

• 1 in 2 transgender individuals have experienced unwanted sexual contact [Stotzer, R. 2009]

• 1 in 3 Native American women will be sexually assaulted [USDOJ, OJP, 2006]

The goal of increasing awareness is to empower people to:

• Recognize and navigate potentially hazardous situations.

• Identify the signs and repercussions of abuse and how best to deal with them.

• Use and/or direct others needing assistance to appropriate community resources.

Three workshops at the conference were aimed especially at teens, allowing them to discuss the #MeToo movement, sexual health and healthy relationships, and being a student leader.

One workshop was led by a representative of Prevent Child Abuse AZ who explained that Adverse Childhood Experiences, including verbal, physical and sexual abuse, actually affect brain development in children. The individual’s capacity for impulse control suffers along with their ability to form healthy, trusting relationships.

Depression and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol is another frequent side-effect.

How to recognize and deal effectively with such individuals in the classroom was the topic of another workshop; the goal was succinctly summarized as “How can we promote healing and resilience in the student by helping them feel safe, capable and likeable/loveable?”

While sexual abuse of women and girls has received a great deal of attention, another workshop revealed the unfortunate truth that it happens to boys too. Still another dealt with the impact of sexual violence on the LGBTQ community in more rural communities such as ours.

Organizations working to provide support to survivors of sexual abuse, including hotlines, confidential reporting and counseling were present to provide informational materials. The conference was topped off by a panel discussion of possible next steps for conference participants. As the panelists revealed, many people involved in working with survivors have very personal reasons for their dedication to prevention and support, including their own experience or that of a loved one.

Both The Launch Pad and Boys to Men are to be congratulated on the organization, content and facilitation of this event. I was especially impressed with the grace and poise of all involved in educating others on this delicate — and often avoided — topic. The first step in improving conditions in our community is to recognize issues that need addressing regardless of how troubling they are.

Fortunately, we have some excellent sources of help and support for anyone dealing with sexual violence:

• West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Crisis Hotline: 877-756-0490

• Stepping Stones Helpline: 928-445-HOPE (4673)

• Start by Believing website: http://www.startbybelieving.org/home

• Prescott Men’s Health Center: 928-541-7520

• Opt – Options for Sexual Heath website: optionsforsexualhealth.org – Click on Education, then on Becoming an Askable Adult.

Alexandra Piacenza is a resident of Prescott. Comments on this column are welcome at apiacenza@cableone.net.

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