How Teens Can Protect Themselves From Sexual Violence

A member of Evanston Police's Victims Service Unit and the YWCA's violence prevention coordinator share their insights with Patch.

When police announced last week that a 14-year-old boy was charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl at , people immediately .

In light of the school's statement that the alleged assault , Evanston Patch talked to two local experts about what teens can do to protect themselves from such violence and who they should turn to if they are sexually assaulted.

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Approximately 19 sexual assualts against juveniles happened in 2010, while 25 incidents occurred in 2011, according to Victims Advocate Beckie Fischer.

"If you think about the statistic that one in four women will be sexually assaulted and given Evanston's population, we know that these are underreported," Fischer said.

In addition to the EPD's 24/7 on-call victim advocates, the offers community-based counseling* and also allows victims to speak with counselors over the phone.

Incidents should be reported when a victim feels his or her physical boundaries have been disrepsected, according to YWCA Evanston/North Shore's Violence Prevention Coordinator Craige Christensen.

"Setting our own boundaries and expecting them to be honroed is imperative, as well as assertively communciationg those boundaries," Christensen said. "It's key to understand that when someone plows through them it’s not cute."

Both Christensen and Fischer said talking about an assault can be challenging for victims.

"There’s all these stigmas about coming forward. ... It’s a very personal thing and then to come to the police department and to be interviewed by the police department and to talk about it when you’re not ready," Fischer said.

Christensen also acknowledged the difficulties for teen victims in coming forward and said YWCA Evanston/North Shore has measures to make talking more comfortable. 

"If they are under the age of 16, they are allowed five visits with a counselor before we let the parents know," she said. And as some teens may feel more comfortable speaking with friends about an assault, she said the best thing a peer can do is be a patient and open-minded listener. It's important for peers to not be judgmental, she added.

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"You don't want to let your friend isolate themselves from you — that's the danger," she said, "And it may take them a while to decide to go to a counselor, but they have to come to the decision themselves."

When anyone reports an incident to the EPD, advocates will perform "crisis intervention," according to Fischer.

"We would come out and meet at the hospital, and provide a sexual assault kit if they want us to," she said, "A big part of it is explaining what the legal process is during this high crisis time. We explain certain things and why they are happening to move forward with the case."

EPD also offers counseling for the victim until the case is closed.

However, receiving longer-term counseling can be financially difficult to maintain, according to Fischer.

"We don’t have a lot of services that are no costs to victims of sexual violence," she said, "We’ve been working with a crime victims compensation program through the Attorney General’s offices. ... It does take a significant amount of time to get that reimbursement."

In addition to contacting police, teen victims of sexual assault can call the national teen dating abuse helpline at 866-331-9474, or the Evanston YWCA at 847-864-8780 and 847-864-8445. You can also check out www.loveisrespect.org for more information.

*a previous version of this article incorrectly used walk-in counseling instead of community-based counseling.

Dickelle Fonda April 25, 2012 at 02:54 PM
There is a serious lack of affordable counseling services in Evanston for teens and adults who are survivors of sexual assault or abuse. Many were seen for years at a center on Peterson in Chicago-which has now closed due to funding issues. As a therapist with a private practice in Evanston I am continually receiving calls for resources for free or low cost counseling for woman and children who have been assaulted recently, as well as years ago. THese services are very limited in our city and that needs to change. We need a satalite center from an ICASA (Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault) to be based in Evanston. THis statewide coalition -with a 30 yr history- funds centers statewide who specialize in this area of service. THere are centers in nearby cities who could open such a satalite office here if they were given the office space to do so. I am working with these groups currently to find such space. Women, men and children in Evanston who have experienced sexual violence in their lives and do not have the resources/insurance to pay for counseling services are seriously underserved in our City!!!!!! I want to change that!! Dickelle Fonda LCSW
Mary Rosinski April 25, 2012 at 03:26 PM
There are very limited places for this imporant need and the funding keeps getting cut. The YWCA Program sounds excellent-and we need to raise the level of awareness, resource locations, and programs in and out of the schools. The closest free rape crisis center in Rogers Park was closed Jan 2012. There is one in downtown, Arlington Heights area and Gurnee. If people can't affor to the cost of counseling - and insurance often does not cover it- then getting to one of these other location is unilikely. The result is victims often are left to deal with this on their own. As people comment on this story I hope they will identify more programs which provide support. Working together we can get the word out. REPSONSE CENTER- in Skokie is an excellent teen oriented place at the corner of Church St. and Skokie Blvd. The are welcoming and I don't think anyone is turned away. The deal with todays teen /family issues on individual and group levels and also out reach programs. They also have a teen clinic. www.Responsecenter.org 224-625-2914.
Julia Wall April 25, 2012 at 06:37 PM
My name is Julia Wall and I am clinician at Response. It is great that people are taking notice and advocating for our adolescents and young adults. We provide individual, group, and family counseling. We offer a sliding fee scale and no one is turned away. We also have an outreach team that goes into the community and a teen clinic. Please check us out at www.responsecenter.org or if you have any questions please call us at 847-676-0078.
annie April 27, 2012 at 12:45 PM
I am glad there is a safe place in Skokie, nice and close and the YWCA in Evanston. Its too bad funding closes these safe places for victims. We really do need more of them. Often times, they are out there, but you only can find out thru your local police department. The reason is, they don't want abusers to find out where the victims are seeking help. It's not only about rape, it can be domestic violence. Domestic violence, is power, control and manipulation. If your teen is dating someone who: doesn't like their friends, seems to control your teens time, is always hanging around, texts constantly, calling constantly, you see bruises, if you have to ask, you know the answer. Your child's grades go down.If you ask your kid and they deny it, keep going. As a parent, get help by talking to a counselor who specializes in abuse at one of these programs and the police. They are a very good and helpful resource. It can happen to both girls and boys.


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