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Towson High student organizes program on sexual assault

Towson High student, Everyn Atieno, of Lutherville, has organized a program for fellow students on sexual assault.
Towson High student, Everyn Atieno, of Lutherville, has organized a program for fellow students on sexual assault. (Submitted photo)

What caught Evelyn Atieno's attention was the story in "Rolling Stone" magazine about the alleged rape of a student on the University of Virginia. She wasn't the only one. The story caused an uproar at the Charlottesville campus and around the country until it was determined to be bogus. Still, it spurred Atieno, a Towson High School senior and Lutherville resident, to action.

"The story might not have been true, but the situation does happen," said Atieno, who has organized a program related to sexual assault at Towson High School on May 19 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. The program is open to all high school students.

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The program will feature Del. Shelly Hettleman, a Democrat representing the 11th District, who will talk about the bill, HB 571, she successfully introduced this past General Assembly legislative session.

The bill, awaiting the governor's signature to become law, requires higher educational institutions' sexual assault policies to conform to federal law and for periodic surveys of their policies.

"The bill formalizes colleges' agreements with police. It is an extension of the work I did on domestic violence," said Hettleman, who was the first executive director of CHANA, a Jewish community program on, among others, sexual abuse.

"People didn't identify sexual assault on universities, but now there is a lot of interest in domestic violence in the dating world," Hettleman said.

Atieno is impassioned to help other students get educated on the legal definition of rape and other issues surrounding the topic. "People get raped and they don't consider it rape because they don't know the legalities," said Atieno.

Atieno doesn't know if this is the first time Towson High has presented such a program or, indeed, if other Baltimore County Public Schools have done so. She began planning the program last month. After collecting 500 signatures in a week from Towson students on a petition to allow the program, high school administrators gave her permission to hold the program in its auditorium after school hours.

"I've been calling principals at other schools to tell their students about the program," said Atieno, who hopes for a large turnout.

Atieno, the daughter of Dorothy Were and Fred Wagah, is a teen journalist with television station ABC2, where she writes and reports on stories for the monthly "Teen Perspective" show. At 16, she started her own magazine, "Affinity For Life," an online website. She will be attending University of Baltimore in the fall.

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