Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director for the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) had an opportunity to speak with NJ101.5 about a recent report that shows an increase in sexual violence being reported in grades K-12.

Over the last few years the topic of sexual assault on college campuses has been discussed with unprecedented frequency and urgency. A part of this conversation has included the need for college campuses to bear the responsibility of implementing sexual violence prevention programing on their campus. The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and other allies, agree that sexual violence prevention should and must saturate our campus communities.

However, to the point Teffenhart articulated in the 101.5 interview, what stories like this point out, is that if we are waiting until our young people get to college to talk about sexual violence prevention, we are waiting too long.  Effective sexual violence prevention must begin before college.

To that end, most of New Jersey’s county-based sexual violence service organizations are actively engaged with working with middle and high schools across the State, implementing age-appropriate curricula designed to challenge rape culture and gender norms. The reality, though, is that sexual violence prevention must begin at home with parents and caring adults teaching young people about personal boundaries and respecting others.

We must also empower our teachers and administrators with the education, tools, and resources necessary to support a prevention infrastructure in their schools and communities and they must know what to do when a young person reports that they are being harassed, intimidated, or victimized.

All of our students deserve to receive their education in an environment free from the fear of violence. We must look at these numbers and realize that our school communities are just microcosms of our larger community and the societal influences that perpetuate gender-based violence follow our young people into our schools. We must ALL play a role in creating safer communities if we wish to create safer schools.

You can read more about the issue as well as Teffenhart’s contributions at NJ101.5’s website.