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Our View: Tackling tough issues

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Steamboat Springs High School recently hosted an important and timely program titled “Going Out Tonight,” which focused on dating violence and sexual assault. The program involved upperclassmen and sparked a conversation among students that centered around awareness of the problem and steps that could be taken to prevent it.

Sexual violence is not a subject easily broached but it is a growing epidemic, especially on college campuses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives, and one in 20 women and men experienced sexual violence other than rape. The population at the highest risk for being assaulted are females ages 14 to 25. Compounding the problem is the fact that a majority of these incidents never are reported to law enforcement officials.

And for those who think Steamboat is immune from these sobering statistics, they are wrong. According to Diane Moore, executive director of Advocates Building Peaceful Communities, the organization that brought the “Going Out Tonight” program to the high school, there have been 10 local reports of sexual assault since Jan. 1, which she labels as a “pretty high” incident rate. Of those reports, several involved females younger than age 20.

The “Going Out Tonight” program is aimed at making sure high school students understand the dangers of dating violence and sexual violence and the consequences for the victim and the perpetrator. Date rape is a serious problem and a serious crime. To communicate this message, the program included a video that featured a re-enacted interview with a college student who spoke about how he and his friends would target girls, get them drunk and then sexually assault them at parties. After the presentation, students were divided into groups where the subject of sexual violence was discussed further.

We applaud Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman for green lighting the program and helping lead the discussion. During the presentation, Taulman shared with the students personal stories of former students and others he knew who had been affected by dating violence. He stressed the importance of making good choices, especially in light of new freedoms the students would be experiencing once they left high school and entered college, where alcohol and sex often create a dangerous mix.

We also appreciate the ongoing efforts of Advocates and its important work in educating area residents about the issue of sexual violence. It’s not a fun topic to discuss but it’s a message that must be heard, and Advocates continues to be this community’s strongest ally and resource for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The recent program at the high school was guided by Moore with the assistance of student board member Meg O’Connell, an impressive young woman who has been volunteering with Advocates for a number of years.

The timing of the sexual violence program coincides with end-of-the-year celebrations, including prom Saturday night. Unfortunately, prom is another time when young women are vulnerable to dating violence, and we hope the message of “Going Out Tonight” still resonates in the minds of the young people who participated in the program.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to endorse Steamboat’s After Prom celebration, which provides high school students with a safe and fun place to celebrate the event into the early morning hours Sunday. After Prom has become an extremely popular event for students with hundreds attending each spring. A group of parents and other community volunteers work hard to raise money throughout the year and plan an event that students want to attend. It’s a night that’s both special and safe, and we’re glad to see the tradition continue.

– Steamboat Pilot & Today