By the numbers
Percentage of Moffat County High School senior girls who said they had been raped
• 2005-06: 0 percent
• 2007-08: 27 percent
Source: Healthy Kids Colorado Survey
Whom to call if you or someone you know is sexually assaulted
Advocates-Crisis Support Services
• Main office: 824-9709
• 24-hour hotline: 824-2400
Craig Police Department
• Main office: 826-2370
• Communications Center: 824-6501
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network
• 1 (800) 656-HOPE
• Free, confidential help offered 24/7 with counseling services and connections to local assistance
Craig The number of Moffat County High School senior girls who reported being sexually victimized increased by 27 percent last year from the 2005-06 school year, according to the 2007-08 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.
In his analysis of the recent survey results, MCHS principal Thom Schnellinger wrote that the increase was "disturbing."
However, an official from a local organization that keeps track of reported sexual assault cases cautioned it is too soon to tell whether the increase represents an anomaly or a trend.
MCHS students took the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey during the 2007-08 school year. The document measures various adolescent behaviors and attitudes.
According to the survey, 27 percent of the high school's 12th-grade female students reported being sexually victimized or forced to have sexual intercourse against their will.
In contrast, none of the senior girls who took the survey during the 2005-06 school year said she had been sexually victimized.
Advocates-Crisis Support Services has noted a similar trend.
"Our statistics are higher this year, unfortunately," Advocates Executive Director Pat Tessmer said.
Tessmer estimated the number of teenage girls reporting their sexual assault to the agency is about 30 percent higher than it was this time last year.
Teen sexual assault cases reported to Advocates abnormally were high during the first quarter of the year, she said.
However, the number of those cases has decreased this summer, Tessmer said.
She cautioned against using this year's statistics to conclude that sexual assault among teenagers is increasing.
Survey results may reflect a change in how students feel about reporting rape, not about the number of sexual assaults that actually occur, she said.
Other factors come into play.
The number of rape cases reported to the agency tend to fluctuate throughout the year, Tessmer said.
Even when reported sexual assault cases remain higher than average throughout the year, it doesn't always signify a trend.
"Every once in a while," Tessmer said, "we'll have a year that's just an anomaly."
When sexual assault reports remain higher than average for two years or more, "that's when I know there's been some shift in the community."
So far, that trend hasn't happened. Last year's sexual assault numbers were lower than average, Tessmer said.
If and when that trend develops, Tessmer plans to take action.
"If we have another high year again (next year), then I know that we have to do some education," she said, "some serious education."
Sexual assault victims can experience a wide range of effects, Tessmer said.
Immediately after the trauma, rape victims often enter an acute phase, she said, which can include feelings of shock, guilt and disassociation, or living on "auto-pilot."
In the next phase, victims can experience lingering feelings of guilt as well as self-blame, self-doubt and anger at the perpetrator, Tessmer said.
Tessmer said the ways in which a person copes with sexual assault may vary between individuals.
However, adolescents may not manage the effects of sexual abuse as well as an adult.
"People that are still growing into adulthood : haven't really had enough experience or time to develop really good coping skills," Tessmer said.
As a result, she said, some adolescents may use deviant behavior, including alcohol abuse, to cope with sexual assault.
"I just really encourage folks that have : been sexually assaulted to seek out some professional help and talk to someone about it," Tessmer said.
Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org.