Exposed and Uncovered – Child Sexual Abuse in Your Community: How it Happens, How to Respond Part II


By Laura Young, Youth Advocate, Umbrella

On Friday, June 9th a local St. Johnsbury counselor was arrested for sexual assault of a child (a 14 year old young man) and recording a sex act of a minor. Many of our community members have been left reeling and angry. In my role as the Youth Advocate at Umbrella in St. Johnsbury, I would like to continue to share my thoughts on how this happens and what to do if your community has been affected by child sexual abuse.

  1.  Child sexual abuse is common and a person who sexually abuses a child could have multiple if not many children that they are abusing.

According to the organization Child Lures Prevention: “Male offenders who abused girls had an average of 52 victims each, men who molested boys had an astonishing average of 150 victims each, and only 3% of these crimes had ever been detected.” These statistics only reflect men who perpetrate sexual violence.  Although offenders are overwhelmingly male, it is estimated that women are the abusers in about 14% of cases reported among boys and 6% of cases reported among girls (Statistics on Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse, National Victims of Crime).

  1.  It’s not easy to know how to respond to child sexual abuse, especially when it’s someone well known in the community.

Knowing “how” child sexual abuse can occur can be helpful but, when an incident happens, the information on “how” is often less important to the community affected by Continue reading

Exposed and Uncovered – Child Sexual Abuse in Your Community: How it Happens, How to Respond Part I


By Laura Young, Youth Advocate, Umbrella

On Friday, June 9th a local St. Johnsbury counselor was arrested for sexual assault of a child (a 14 year old young man) and recording a sex act of a minor. Many of our community members have been left reeling and angry. How can a man with that level of trust in the community rape a young boy? Not to mention the question lying in the back of our heads as advocates and concerned community members-how many more children did he violate?

I recently watched the movie Spotlight which covered the way that the Boston Globe brought to light the sexual violence occurring within the Catholic Church in the early 2000’s. I couldn’t help but think of this movie as I think of the actions of the counselor in St. Johnsbury. In both situations, the priests and, in this case the counselor, used their standing in the community to cover up their actions.

At this point, when I think of those in authority who abuse children there’s so much I could say. I could keep you reading for days but I will try and sum up just a few (okay, seven) of my thoughts on how this happens and what to do if your community has been affected by child sexual abuse.  Here are three of my thoughts…watch for Part II for the rest!

  1.  An abusive person from outside of the family is generally a trusted, well liked member of a community and of a child’s life.

First, it is important to note that, according to the National Sex Offender Public Website, 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are members of the child’s family.

Of the 70% that are not family members, we tend to have this image in our minds of a perpetrator of a man in a white van offering candy to small children. Although sexual abuse by strangers does happen (10%), the truth is that 60% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are people well known in the victim’s family or the surrounding community. Someone with the communities’ trust and respect. Perhaps we like to think of the man offering candy as a way to protect ourselves from thinking that we may give our trust to someone who could violate our child but this is not the (horrible) truth. Taking a look at the National Center for Victims of Crime’s website we learn that “3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.” This includes individuals that their family and community knew well too.

Often, perpetrators look for places to work or volunteer where they will be around children. They will make an effort to get close to the child’s caregiver and earn their trust or look for a child who does not have actively involved adults. They may intentionally be a friend to families who are having family difficulties and they may hang out in places where children frequent, they may offer to coach or mentor children etc.

Also, people who are seeking to abuse children may use their ties to religious organizations, sports or schools (or in St. Johnsbury’s case their work in a counseling office) to their advantage. Within these organizations, children are taught to trust and respect whomever their authority is (as they should be able to do). Additionally, by being involved in the community, especially in religious organizations the perpetrator has established themselves as someone who shares certain values which causes some parents and some community members to naturally be more trusting of this individual because they hold them to a higher moral standard.

  1.  A sexual predator will groom their victim and their victim’s family as well as the surrounding community

Grooming is an action that a sexual predator takes in order to earn the trust of a child and Continue reading

5 Things About Sexting that Aren’t Legalese

by Amanda Rohdenburg, Director of Advocacy, Outright Vermont

1. First things first:  Sexting is a slang word created by pushing ‘sex’ and ‘texting’ together.  So then ‘sexting’ is a sexual text exchange, sometimes including nude pictures.  It can happen through a whole range of social media (Facebook, Twitter), electronic devices (computers, camera phones, tablets), and applications (i.e. SnapChat).

2. All ages of people send these types of messages, not just teens.  Members of Congress, celebrities.  It’s endorsed openly in popular magazines; in 2013 Cosmo published an article listing partial nude pics among activities on so-called first base. The roots of the abuse of this media aren’t in the technology or the kids; they’re embedded in the same sexist, violent bedrock that supports all kinds of sexual violence.

3. Consent is a huge concern when it comes to sexting. Consent can only exist when there is a balance of power including: awareness of consequences both positive and negative–AND what it means for the relationship; Continue reading

Relationship Status Book: New and Improved

By Judy Szeg, Educator, Safeline 

Hey out there!  We’d like to point you toward our newly revised Relationship Status Book which is now available on the web.  You can download it or check it out as an online Flip Book.  rs book

Relationship Status is a perennial publication of the Network’s designed for youth in Vermont about healthy relationships.  In addition to information that will inform youth about supporting and controlling relationships, sex and consent, drugs and alcohol and resources for finding support – there are new pages that talk about dealing with conflict, how to handle break ups, and virtual connections.


Another resource was also recently updated.  Our Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Violence, and Protection Orders: The Law and Your Rights booklet provides information about legal options for teens who have experienced dating violence. It is available as a downloadable pdf.

If you are located in Vermont and would like a hard copy of either brochure, please contact your local Vermont Network program.



Social Media: Does it help or hinder the fight to end sexual and domestic violence?

by Carmen Fisher-Olvera, Youth Advocate Intern – HOPE Works, 11th grade Champlain Valley High School, 16 years old

To be quite honest the answer wasn’t immediate. Social media has always been my “go to” place for awareness. I started really getting involved in the movement when I was around 12 years old. In time-sensitive matters when the public needs to be aware of the issue, like when victims are abducted or a victim is missing, social media never fails to inform.

As a youth advocate, social media is an irreplaceable resource. Victims come together with others in a method of healing, telling their story and coping with the trauma. To hear stories is heartbreaking however knowing that victims had the courage to post their story is inspiring. Campaigns to raise awareness spread more quickly than they ever have.

Social media can be abused, however. Some groups form in order to harass or hurt the victim. When inaccurate information is used it can shape public opinion and government policies for the worst. It can also reinforce myths and stereotypes of crime victims. Media coverage also can re-traumatize victims of violence if it is especially inaccurate.
The power that social media holds can be daunting, however it is important to embrace it. Social media is a gift, and I am sure I don’t realize the full extent of its power. Social media is here to stay, and it is our responsibility to use it for good.

Snapchat/ Snaphack resources for adults

By: Stephen McArthur, Advocate & Community Outreach Coordinator at Circle in Barre, Vermont

Circle has been committed to working with high school students for many years in schools throughout Washington County. We focus on many different topics all from the perspective of reducing and preventing teen dating violence while creating healthy relationship norms.

As part of this work, we have done several surveys with high schools students over the years. A recent one resulted in Continue reading