Combatting Violence Against Teen Girls

The Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago has awarded a grant to Response Center, which provides counseling and medical services related to adolescent sexuality. JWFC has been supporting the centers, both of which serve both Jewish and non-Jewish clienteles, since 1999, after learning from Response Center staff that fully one third of teens coming in for medical exams were reporting that they had been sexually assaulted, or were engaging in dangerous sexual activity. Center employees now report that the proportion of girls reporting such behavior has risen to one half.

“By ‘sexual assault,’ we are talking not just about rape,” said Laura Kaufman, executive director of the foundation. Other forms, she said, include coerced oral sex.

“Girls 14, 15 years old are engaging in a lot of oral sex,” said Kaufman. “It seems they’re so bombarded by peer pressure that they’ll do anything. I’m baffled that girls are so desperate to be accepted by peers, and by boys. They don’t feel empowered to say, why am I doing this? Do I really want this?”

“We’re adults,” said Kaufman. “It’s our job to help them, to tell them, you don’t have to do this!” Part of the grant will go towards groups on safe dating and healthy relationships, a teen advisory board on programs, and groups for sexual abuse survivors.