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January Eat Chat Parent Events Focus On Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse

Author and licensed clinical psychologist Elizabeth L. Jeglic will help address the topic of consent, sexual violence, sexual abuse and how to stay safe at this month's Eat Chart Parent series events at Eagle Valley High School and Battle Mountain High School.

This story and photo appeared in the Vail Daily on January 9, 2020.

It is never too early or too late to talk to children about tough topics. Mountain Youth kicks off the New Year and its free community speaker series with a conversation that is imperative. The January Eat Chat Pat events on Jan. 14 and 15 will focus on consent.

“The topic of consent came up many times in our parent survey: how to address it, what it is and how to keep our children safe,” said Carol Johnson, Mountain Youth’s community education manager.

At the January event, the renowned author and licensed clinical psychologist Elizabeth L. Jeglic will help address the topic of consent, sexual violence, sexual abuse and how to stay safe. The conversation will focus on empowerment and staying safe.

“We’ll talk about misconceptions, how sexual abuse happens, who the perpetrators are,” Jeglic said. “We’ll talk about grooming. It happens with younger children and teenagers as well. We’ll talk about affirmative consent and how to keep [teenagers] safe in relationships.”

Jeglic is a professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, a mother of three and co-author of the book “Protecting your Child from Sexual Abuse: What You Need To Know To Keep Your Kids Safe.” She is an Associate Editor of the journal Sexual Abuse and is the co-director of the Sex Offender Research Lab. She maintains a blog on Psychology Today and her work has been cited in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Prevention Magazine, Readers Digest, Parents Magazine, Fatherly, and Working Mother among others.

With social media ever-present, more young people are being groomed online, and Dr. Jeglic will discuss online safety, as well as signs of sexual abuse and what consent looks like in a teen relationship.

Vail Health and Eagle Valley Behavioral Health are the presenting sponsors of the series offered by Mountain Youth to help parents and caregivers learn together and engage in dialogue with their children now so that children know they have a safe place to come and ask questions. Eat Chat Parent events provides the tools and resources for families to have meaningful discussion regarding difficult, and sometimes overwhelming, topics.

“We’ll talk about difficult situations and how to think critically and work through them,” Jeglic said. “Starting as young as fifth grade feels awkward, but the sooner we can talk about these topics, statistics show the less children will engage in risky behaviors.”

Jeglic will encourage interactive discussions so parents can get a head start on the conversations with their children and so that young people in attendance can hear adult perspectives.

“In the past year, Eagle County has seen a rise in juvenile criminal filings and convictions in regard to sexual assault charges,” said Korrine Winstead, a Mountain Youth board member, local parole officer and mother of two teens. “The importance of addressing issues of consent, sexting, harassment, and sexual assault with our young people in the community is imperative to their health and well-being. These conversations need to begin at home with parents discussing healthy relationships with their children.

“Youth and their families need to understand what the consequences are if charges of harassment and/or sexual assault are filed, and how these types of charges can alter the futures they are working so hard for,” she said.

Not talking about a subject does not make the topic disappear.

“We’ll finish by talking about signs of sexual abuse and what to do if you suspect somebody has been abused; how to deal with that, what to do. It’s a very difficult conversation to have,” Jeglic said. “These are hard conversations to have, and I’m impressed parents are willing to have it. The reason sexual abuse is so prevalent is because we are not talking about it. The more we talk, the less likely [someone] is able to abuse our kids.”

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