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In the time it takes you to read this editorial, another American has been sexually assaulted.

Sexual violence is an issue that exists in every community and affects people of all ages and genders. According to Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1 in 8 Maryland women will be the raped in their lifetime. Young women from the ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely to become victims of sexual assault and rape than the national average, according to RAINN.org. In Maryland, about 1 in 7 youth internet users receive unwanted sexual solicitations, according to MCASA.org. These are disturbing numbers.

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In order to change these statistics, we must start the conversation of awareness and prevention. This conversation needs to start early, so that we can protect our young people from experiencing sexual violence.



Rape Crisis Intervention Service (RCIS) has been working since 1978 to advocate for and support those affected by sexual violence, as well establishing prevention efforts within our community. With generous funding from the Board of County Commissioners, the 2016-2017 school year has created a great opportunity for RCIS to once again have a presence in our public schools.

RCIS educational presentations are available to all seventh- and eighth-grade health classes, as well as high school health classes. These presentations can be scheduled by any middle school or high school health teacher and vary based on age appropriateness and curriculum.

Seventh-grade students' presentation focuses on sexual harassment; what it is, how to prevent it and what to do if it happens.

Eighth-grade students will be given a presentation on dating violence and how to develop healthy relationships.

Finally, high school students will learn about sexual and dating violence.

RCIS is developing working alliances with teachers and counselors in Carroll County Public Schools. These important relationships will increase accessibility to resources and information about sexual violence and the free and confidential services that RCIS provides.

The reality of our culture is that our young people are faced with more and more opportunities for violence. This can come from face-to-face harassment or through text messaging and social networking. The dangers of sexual violence for our young people are very real. If we choose to ignore these dangers, we are only taking power away from our young people.

RCIS believes that it is important to make our youth knowledgeable about the issues surrounding sexual violence in order to empower them, keep them safe and to prevent future violence from happening.

Help start this conversation by taking time to learn more about our services, volunteer opportunities or by being an active bystander. If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual violence, please call our 24-hour hotline, 410-857-7322, or visit our website, www.rapecrisiscc.org and/or Facebook page for help. You can make a difference.

Rachel Hughes is the community educator for Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County.

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