Teens speaking up about sexual assault | SierraSun.com

Teens speaking up about sexual assault

Photo by Christine Stanley/Sierra SunPatty Ramirez, Garrett Tonon and Melissa Kleffman are volunteers with the Teen Speakers Bureau.

The hallways of Tahoe Truckee High School buzz with chatter and gossip. A skinny brunette spills her books, a crowd of baseball players jest and shove, teachers stick close to the walls in an effort to pass unscathed through the chaos.

In many ways, Truckee High is like every other high school in America.

And like every other high school in America, there are words and actions being exchanged in those hallways and classrooms that are degrading students’ comfort and ease. Young men, and sometimes women, are crossing the line, say students at Truckee High.

“There have definitely been very uncomfortable situations here,” said Shelby Lewis, a sophomore at Truckee High. “And there is sexual assault ” it’s here, it just took someone pointing it out for us to realize.”

Educators and prevention teams from Tahoe Women’s Services, a North Shore and Truckee nonprofit that works to end abuse against women and children, have delivered the message about abuse to students of all ages for years.

From those efforts stemmed the Teen Speakers Bureau, a group of Truckee High students who speak to their peers about such topics as sexual harassment, sexual abuse, domestic violence and fostering healthy relationships. The group formed with a boost of nearly $4,300 from the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.

“If a kid can stand up and talk about these topics, then their peers will listen,” said Aimee LaFayette, an AmeriCorps volunteer who works for Tahoe Women’s Services and leads the teen bureau. “It conveys the messages successfully.”

The 10 members of the Teen Speakers Bureau, all female by circumstance, facilitate presentations at other Truckee schools and fundraise through community projects, such as selling awareness bracelets and pins. The money they raise is used to purchase educational supplies for their group or for women and children assisted by Tahoe Women’s Services.

“I feel that just by talking to my friends about [the issues], I’m making a difference,” Lewis said.

“It’s chipping away one piece at a time; it’s a step,” added sophomore Sophie Sparksworthy, also a member of the bureau.

“And each step is important,” Lewis said. “It’s a long process and only time and consistency will get it solved.”

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