Editor's take: #MeToo should call more attention to young victims

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PITTSFIELD — I heard about Pittsfield High School senior Noah Lewis Bailey directing Arlene Hutton's, "I Dream Before I Take The Stand," while covering the March and April student walkouts and protests again school shootings and gun violence.

It gave me pause to consider the topic of sexual assault and rape as it relates to our young people.

While not excluded from the #MeToo movement, most of the headlines over the past year have been dominated by adults, some coming forward years after their initial attacks. But we can't forget that children and teenagers, sadly, are adding their voices to the refrain, "it happened to me too."

As Bailey writes of the cast and crew in his production, "We know of our friends and peers within our high school that have gone through trauma similar to the experience in the show ..."

As I asked the young director to contribute a reflection on the show in his own words, I took the time to remind myself of the statistics that exist for young people. Here's what I learned:

— Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence reports, "There's not one data set that fully provides a picture of the prevalence and pervasiveness of sexual and domestic violence in Massachusetts."

— According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, it's estimated that 11 percent of high school students and six percent of middle school students reported being physically hurt by a date sometime in their life.

— Of reported incidents of rape perpetrated against a youth, 42 percent of females and 35 percent of males reported the incident first occurring before age 17.

— In 2010, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families found that while incidents have been on the decline, 7,675 children were reported to be victims of sexual abuse by an adult caregiver.

— While the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Office of Justice Programs produces a comprehensive annual report on "Indicators of

School Crime and Safety," the category of sexual assault is not exclusive in several data sets. The categories of "violent victimization" and "serious violent victimization" include the crimes of rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault together. The data on incidents of sexual harassment for selected years between 2003 and 2017 are listed as "not available." And while 6,100 incidents of reported sexual assault were reported in schools during the 2015-16 school year, only 3,600 of these incidents were reported to police.

Last March, Colby Bruno of the Boston-based Victim Rights Law Center told the Cape Cod Times that, in addition to the rest of society, sexual assault in schools "is significantly underreported," largely due to fear of retaliation, shame and the fact that reports show incidents in schools go largely unpunished.

This is a problem the Pittsfield High School students, within the safer parameters of the theater, bravely elected to address. But these staggering statistics suggest that elected school officials and policy makers, along with members of the community, must do more to protect our youth.

To help a youth or teen

Berkshire County Kids' Place: kidsplaceonline.org or 413-499-2800

Elizabeth Freeman Center: elizabethfreemancenter.org or 866-401-2425

Berkshire County Sexual Assault Intervention Network (SAIN) Team: 413-443-5951

Child-at-Risk Hotline: 800-792-5200


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