ELIZABETH, NJ – Elizabeth Detective Raymond Smith looked out at the gathering of adolscents and teenagers and said, “If someone says No, No means No.”

The occasion was a session about sexual violence presented by the Union County Rape Crisis Center at the Boys & Girls Club of Union County, Elizabeth, Jan. 25. The detective spoke of the dangers for both sexes, but emphasized that the major number of attacks are against women, usually by someone they know like a boyfriend.

Det. Smith gave the group the following advice:

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  • If you hear a friend planning to take advantage of a girl, talk them out of it. “Try to get someone to stop doing something stupid.”
  • Never put sexually provocative photos on social media. “Even if you delete them, they are always there and can be found. “ Such pictures can damage an applicant’s chances when applying for jobs.
  • Get out of threatening situations anyway you can. Walk away.
  • Speak up when asked to do things that make you uncomfortable
  • “Buddy Up” always travel in groups for safety
  • Record any inappropriate comments or suggestions

In a warning against date rape drugs, the detective said, “Never accept a drink from anyone. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. Someone will come to us, and they know something bad happened, but people don’t remember what happened. “

Added Stacy Kievning, UCRCC’s prevention coordinator, “You have no idea where you have been or what happened.”

Det. Smith also told the group to turn away from classmates who brag about their sexual exploits that can ruin someone’s reputation.  “Someone who brags about touching someone sexually, they are talking about sexual abuse.”

The session, which was presented by the Union County Rape Crisis Center under the auspices of Union County Department of Human Services, Division of Planning, was a timely reminder of a dangerous problem. According to information provided by Det. Smith, every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted with young people at the highest risk. On average, there are 321,500 victims aged 12 or older of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, the majority of victims are women and girls.  One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

Seven out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, according to statistics provided by Det. Smith, 28 percent are committed by a stranger, 45 percent by an acquaintance, 25 percent by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend, six percent by more than one person or the victim can’t remember, and 1 percent are committed by a non-spouse relative.

The presentation was organized by Stacy Kievning and Candace Barnes, director of education and teen services for the Boys & Girls Club in Elizabeth. Kievning’s presentations can be a one time or “one dose” presentation and/or a curriculum, which is made up of multi sessions or “multi doses.” At the Club, she has presented Media Literacy and Gender Equality to help students develop critical thinking and encourage them to engage with the media culture. The goal is to promote gender equity for the prevention of violence, and the SAFE DATES program that teaches students about different forms of dating violence. They learn conflict resolution skills with the goal to prevent abuse in teen romantic relationships.  

“Upon request, I go to different schools and organizations to do presentations against sexual violence,” said Kievning. “Our current goal, based upon funding directives, has led us into the city of Elizabeth.  So I have been very fortunate to be able to work with the Boys and Girls Club in Elizabeth.”

Nasrene Mondol of Union County Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Services presented a workshop on drug abuse prevention including the current heroin epidemic in New Jersey. Union County Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Services is located the Union County Administration Building, Elizabethtown Plaza in Elizabeth, and can be reached at 908-527-4844.

Union County Rape Crisis Center is located at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield, 908-233-7273.

The Boys & Girls Club of Union County is located at 513 Richmond Street in Elizabeth. The telephone number is 908-351-3344.