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Vol. LXI, No. 32
 
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
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HiTOPS Receives $3,000 Award for Date-Rape Prevention Initiative

Linda Arntzenius

HiTOPS, the Princeton-based non-profit that promotes adolescent health, has received the 2007/2008 Anti-Violence Award from the New Jersey Psychological Association (NJPA) Foundation.

Each year the foundation chooses one project to receive the award and this year marks the second time that HiTOPS (Health-Interested Teens' Own Program on Sexuality) has been the recipient.

The $3,000 sum will be used to disseminate the HiTOPS Date Rape Prevention Curriculum and accompanying video to 16 schools throughout New Jersey.

"We are just thrilled with this grant; it will allow us to provide information on date rape to a much larger group of young people than we have been able to previously," said Lori Heninger, executive director of the facility that serves more than 10,000 young adults each year. "This is a really important concept for both young women and young men to understand."

The goal of HiTOPS' Date-Rape Prevention Curriculum is to help encourage meaningful dialogue about sexual assault with a view to decreasing all types of sexual violence. It will be used for boys and girls from grade 8 through college and is designed specifically for high school health classes, counseling centers, and other youth-serving organizations.

The rape prevention program is comprised of five 50-minute health classes, two documentary-style films, and eight supporting educational activities to help students explore the difficult subjects raised.

One film relates the story of a girl who is raped at a high school party. The second includes the personal comments of young people who lives have been affected by sexual violence.

"I grew up too fast. One day I was a happy-go lucky teenager and my biggest problem was that I was getting a bad grade. Then I got raped," one 14 year-old victim is quoted as saying.

"It is now ten years since I was raped on a date," another commented. "Maybe one day I'll get back what has been stolen from me."

The films were created by HiTOPS professionals Elizabeth Walters and Chris Floor. Ms. Walters conducts a weekly Sexual Assault Survivor Support (SASS) group at HiTOPS and has been providing clinical care and sexuality education at the facility since it opened.

Ms. Walters, who completed the NJ Sexual Assault Volunteer Training Program in 1999, leads activities and discussions at the center as well as providing resources and referral to other professionals. Mr. Floor is now a guidance counselor with Princeton Regional Schools.

Endorsing the HiTOPS effort, NJPA Foundation Board Vice President Janet Q. Nelson said: "the Board of the NJPA Foundation is proud to support the work that you [Ms. Heninger], and Elizabeth Walters, are doing to support the healthy development of young women and men."

According to HiTOPS, date or acquaintance rape is a growing problem for young women entering high school and college. The organization reports that one out of 4 women have experienced a rape or an attempted rape and 75 percent of all rape victims are between the ages of 14 and 21.

While date rape is primarily a problem for young women, the organization notes that one in six boys will also be a victim of sexual assault in his lifetime and that boys who commit date rape are often confused about sexual boundaries, and do not understand the legal and psychological severity of their actions.

HiTOPS goals are to help students define rape and to identify the common situations associated with date rape in order to identify ways for its avoidance. Students also discuss the role that drugs and alcohol play in date rape and how to respond if a friend is raped.

HiTOPS

Founded in 1987, HiTOPS runs health education programs throughout the state and provides direct health care services to the youth of Mercer County through its youth-friendly health care center, located to the rear of the main building on Wiggins Street. The center is the only such resource for adolescent health in New Jersey.

The organization's outreach programs have become models across the state and its courses meet the N.J. Core Curriculum standards in health. Its mission is to inform adolescents so that they will be better able to avoid the adverse consequences of premature sexual behavior, including unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.

For more information about the "One by One: Teens Explore Date Rape" program or HiTOPS, call (609) 683-5155 extension 216 or email Julie@HiTOPS.org.

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