New CDC report details increasing number of sexual attacks on teen girls
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a new report showing an increase across the country in sexual assault against teen girls back in 2021. Some experts say the pandemic is to blame for the increasing number.
“You know, we were in quarantine. So, I think, immediately your mind may go to ‘you’re safe at home.’ But, for some people, that’s just not the case. I mean, most of the perpetrators that we know of are known to the victim, unfortunately. So, that could be a family member or somebody that they are isolated with,” Chelsea Croom said. “But I also think that it gave some people the language that they may not have been familiar with prior. We didn’t talk about this stuff quite that much [growing up]. And so, without that language, without that understanding of what is right and what is wrong, you may not have known that you were identifying as a survivor of sexual assault, or you may not have even known what sexual violence was or what it looks like. And so, to me, that kind of pushes that into more of a focus for everybody.”
Croom is the program manager for Coastal Horizons Rape Crisis Center. She said here in southeastern North Carolina they have also seen an increase in victims coming in to get help.
She said the #MeToo Movement, a social movement against sexual abuse and harassment, which started in 2020, likely sparked more people who had been sexually violated to report the incidents.
“I think that definitely, like lit a fire under people to feel more comfortable coming forward and being honest and open about their experiences and wanting other people to know like, this is not right, and this shouldn’t be happening,” Croom added. “I still do think people are holding back and maybe not talking. But I do think that was more prevalent before the MeToo movement before these conversations were being had on a much larger stage. And before people felt comfortable coming to the forefront and talking about it. I think, you know, people do wait to talk sometimes [and] it depends on the level of comfortability they have, who was it? You know, was it somebody close to them that they love, and they’re worried about getting in trouble? They, you know, are they worried about being believed? And those are just things that I wish nobody had to deal with.”
And Croom said many cases that were recently reported happened years ago.
“I think in the past people waited a lot more than maybe they are right now.”
Coastal Horizons is working with New Hanover County Schools to educate kids about preventing any type of sexual assault or harassment.
Croom says the education for students starts in sixth grade and then continues that conversation into ninth grade.
“We want to start the conversation early to avoid these behaviors. We just talk to them about boundaries, consent, what healthy relationships look like, what flirting looks like, versus what is dangerous behavior or hurting. And just kind of like setting the groundwork for what that you know, who’s your protected person who do you trust at school or home that you can go to if something were to happen, or if you did feel uncomfortable about something,” Croom said. “We go into the ninth-grade classrooms, and we do a curriculum called bringing in the bystander, again, reaffirming those boundaries, what that looks like, but getting more deep into the conversation of what sexual violence looks like, what sexual harassment looks like, and kind of also setting the stage for them to be positive bystanders. If they see something, say something, encouraging their friends and encouraging themselves to reach out for help if they notice something’s going on that they don’t agree with or feel comfortable with.
She hopes with education and awareness, more people will reach out for help.
If you know of someone struggling due to a sexual attack, Croom offers this piece of advice: “Just being supportive, understanding, listening, and believing is the most important thing you can do.”
Coastal Horizons has help available 24/7 through their Rape Crisis Center. If you want help, you can call 910-392-7460.
Croom noted that if you reach out for help, you are not required to report an incident to law enforcement.
To view the full report from the CDC, click here.
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