Schools Free From Sexual Violence ending the stigma


Angela Tessitore

Jessica Rice giving her presentation to the Various Voices club.

TOWAMENCIN- Defeating the stigma surrounding sexual violence and changing attitudes about the sensitive topic is difficult to break, but North Penn is taking a step in the right direction.

Jessica Rice, a Victim Services Center of Montgomery County counselor joined North Penn’s Various Voices club Wednesday afternoon to host session one of her Schools Free From Sexual Violence Workshop.

“One goal or objective is to mobilize the school community and identify leaders. I think the Various Voices club are all about making change and talking about this topic. Hopefully they can lead the discussion or lead activities in the future, such as sexual assault awareness month in April,” explained Rice.

The workshop includes four sessions after school to educate students on what is sexual violence and why it occurs. Wednesday’s session focused on dispelling myths and going over facts related to sexual assault. Some common misconceptions are that only women are affected by this issue and that recovery from trauma is temporary.

“[Leaders] can do activities on campus or in school to continue the conversation and teach skills to prevent sexual assault. Like what are different behaviors or skills that we need to learn in order to speak up against someone that makes catcalls,” added Rice.

Rice further explained that sexual violence does not simply affect the survivor, it also impacts the survivor’s family. Expressing empathy and saying “I support and believe you” can go a long way for survivors of sexual assault. Rice uses her experience from working at Victims Services to educate people of all ages about sexual assault.

“ I have been at victims services for five years and we have gone to all different schools throughout Montgomery County. From preschool age all the way up to college,” explained Rice.

Rules are emphasized in the beginning of each session to ensure that a safe space is created. Every student is respected and free from judgement if they have a personal question. If a student feels the discussion is too upsetting, they are allowed to leave at any moment. Coloring pages are also handed out to color during the presentation.

The second session will be held after school on January 16th. Two more sessions will follow that go more in depth, explaining toxic masculinity and gender roles. The final session will present a documentary.