Aspen Event Aims To Start Conversations Around Assault

Oct 29, 2018

Amid investigations into an alleged sexual assault in Aspen, there’s a lot of concern about how to keep kids safe.

One event hopes to shift the focus away from victims learning to protect themselves to addressing a culture that allows assault to happen in the first place.  

While Pitkin County and Aspen Police Department are investigating, Sheriff Joe Di Salvo says his department wanted to be proactive and help educate parents.

"I don't think we've done a real good job allowing women to report and feel safe on a national level, and maybe that's trickling down to the local level," said Di Salvo. 

His department is promoting two Aspen events to teach parents about assault.

One event -  “Ten Tips Every Parent Should Know To Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse” - aims to combat that climate of silence.

Megan Hurley, an expert in child sexual trauma, is leading the discussion. She says it will teach parents how to bring up tough topics with their teenagers.

"It's equally important to raise young men not to be offenders as it is to teach women not to become victims," said Hurley.

She believes the conversation surrounding sexual assault can be one-sided. It often focuses on what the victim could have done to avoid assault, from how they dress to how much alcohol they’ve consumed.

Her talk won’t just focus on how youth can protect themselves. It’ll also instruct them on how to be respectful.

To create empathetic young adults, Hurley says, it’s important to talk about what healthy sexual relationships look like and the importance of clear and enthusiastic consent.

"No means no is just as relevant as yes means yes," said Hurley. 

In a community as close-knit as the Roaring Fork Valley, Hurley says, victims of sexual assault likely know their assailant.

Community pressure can make it hard to report assault, and she says this is where parents come in.

"They can help kids have an environment where they can come forward and tell their parents what’s happening," said Hurley.

She hopes that teaching parents how to talk to their kids about assault will help prevent it.

Sheriff Di Salvo agrees.

"We need to change our culture a little. A lot," he said.

And he hopes this conversation is one step in that direction.