Student group gets grant to be used for sexual assault education program

A grant from the State of Colorado will help to broaden the focus of rape awareness throughout Craig and Moffat County.

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment's Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, along with the state Division of Criminal Justice released a total of $173,313 in grants to 19 community-based sexual assault prevention and education programs statewide.

Advocates-Crisis Support Services in Craig will receive $7,850 over the next twelve months which will be used to fund sexual assault educational and rape prevention programs. The money will also be used to pay the salary of Karen Aragon, leader for the Advocates-Support Services, a 24-hour helpline established for victims of sexual abuse.

"This is something that is not often talked about in the home because it is not a very comfortable subject to bring up," said Aragon. "What we try to do is go into the schools and educate the children on ways that they can prevent sexual abuse and violence before it starts.

"We have found that if we can teach the children what to do before it happens, it increases the awareness that they have to the problem."

The grant will benefit the Preventing Relationship Violence through Educating Nurturing Teens (PReVENT) program, which was originally started by students to bring awareness of the problem of sexual abuse in Moffat County.

"Kids were the ones who originally wanted to start the program," Aragon said. "Pat Tessmer was the person who really got everything underway for them, and she took the program from having no money to where it is today.

"Then when the Teen Court program began, where juveniles' guilt or innocence was determined by a group of teens, the program also received some more attention," she said. "A lot of those kids were sentenced to volunteer time to the PReVENT program and that kept it going for a while."

As time moved on, students began to take a more proactive approach to sexual-assault prevention, and that is where the program remains today.

"We have an amazing group of young people involved in PReVENT today," Aragon said. "They are very dedicated to getting the word out to all high school students, and feel that it is important that they do so before these kids leave for college."

The largest percentage of sexual assaults occurs in the 18 to 24 age group, with few of those cases being reported, and even fewer being prosecuted.

"Statistics show that only one out of every 100 sexual assaults is reported to officials, and of those, only one out of every 100 results in a prosecution," Aragon said. "Many of these victims feel as though they already have been violated once, and by going through the entire court process, they will be violated yet again. This is why it is important that we get the word to these kids before they are faced with the issues."

For more information on Advocates-Crisis Support Services, contact Karen Aragon at 824-9709.

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