Officials address teen sexual assault risk

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— Steamboat Springs police Capt. Bob Devalle had a tough question for Lonn Clementson's health class.

"Did you think Suzanne deserved to get raped?" he asked. "Did she put herself at risk?"

Devalle and Diane Moore, executive director of Advocates Against Battering and Abuse, presented a video Monday to freshman and sophomore health classes. It is something they do twice a year.

The video depicts a common date rape scene in college.

The gray areas of sexual assault always spark good discussions in class, Clementson said. The students have viewpoints that support both the victim and the perpetrator.

Devalle thinks it is important to address both parties' behavior. Although it is never the victim's fault, there is an element of risk in the victim's behavior, he said.

Risk factors include the use of alcohol and drugs, which are involved in 75 percent of sexual assault cases.

Devalle said that drugs and alcohol are involved in 90 percent of sexual assault cases prosecuted in Routt County.

Devalle thinks teenagers will take risks no matter what they tell them. "We target the kids who are walking that line," Devalle said.

The focus of these presentations is to "increase awareness about these issues in Routt County and how they affect and impact teens," Moore said. "The more information that the students have, the more responsible they are to make good decisions."

Moore said society still needs to reform its tendency to blame the victim.

"We try to dispel those myths," Clementson said. "At the very least, students get to critically think about the situation (of date rape) before hand."

The presentation comes at the beginning of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In addition to date rape and associated behavior, Devalle and Moore also want the students to know what resources are available to them ------ such as Advocates and law enforcement.

Moore said that during the past three to four years, the number of sexual assaults in Routt County has increased. Advocates helps 30 to 45 victims of sexual assault each year.

"No matter what has happened, it is important to get support. If you don't report to law enforcement, then talk to Advocates or parents," Moore said to the students. "If you don't tell anyone, it won't go away."

Devalle's advice to the male students in the class is that "when you guys are in the throws of passion and the girl says 'No,' your excitement level should be like this." Devalle turned the lights off.

For more information call Devalle at 879-4345. Moore offers confidential support at 879-2034.

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