Nationwide, 42 percent of rape victims experience their first assault before the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Statistics like these are scary, but they are the reason that The Blue Bench exists.
This Denver-based nonprofit organization, founded in 1983, works to eliminate sexual assault and diminish its impact in the community. Many of its efforts to accomplish this are focused on youth.
“These statistics indicate that many of our students may be dealing with the consequences of trauma from sexual violence, which can have a detrimental impact on their education including absenteeism and lower grades,” says Susie Roman, director of prevention and education at The Blue Bench. “This makes our youth prevention programming especially critical.”
In the program, middle and high school students learn how to recognize a wide range of behaviors on the continuum of sexual violence, using interactive scenario-based activities. These programs are typically broken up into several 50 to 60 minute sessions—about the length of a class period—depending on the schedule needed for the group.
In 2017, more than 3,600 middle school and high school-age youth participated in one of The Blue Bench’s prevention programs, which Roman says is an increase of 140 percent from 2016 to 2017. “I have seen change in both knowledge and intention to support a friend or intervene in the future,” Roman says.
Roman urges the community to help by engaging in conversations about sexual assault. “One of the most important things we can do to end sexual violence is do our part to end the stigma of the issue,” she says. “Change the culture within your family so that every member knows it’s OK to talk about sexual violence and ask for help if needed.”
How Families Can Help
- Request a youth prevention program for your child’s school or organization. Complete the online request form located on the Prevention Programs page of the website, or contact Susie Roman directly: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-329-9922 ext. 317.
- Talk to your young kids. Roman says parents can start teaching young kids about consent by empowering them to set their own body boundaries. “For example, rather than telling a child to kiss someone goodbye, a parent could ask, ‘How would you like to say goodbye?,’ and allow the child to decide if they prefer to high-five, wave, hug, kiss, etcetera.”
- Donate money through the website. Financial donations allow survivors of sexual assault to receive high quality individual or group therapy, and art therapy, regardless of their ability to pay.
- Volunteer your time. Help staff the 24/7 hotline, accompany survivors to the hospital, or help in the office doing research and data entry.
- Donate items. Pens, paper, art supplies, and larger items for silent auctions are always needed.
- Offer your skills. Graphic design, database management, or other skills are helpful.
- Attend an event. Each year, The Blue Bench holds events to help raise funds and awareness, such as The Heart of the Matter Golf Tournament and the Changing the Conversation Luncheon.
- Host an event. Businesses and residents host small events from yoga classes to hair shows to support The Blue Bench’s mission.