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CDC report: Sexual violence against teenage girls has sharply risen

Alarming new numbers from the CDC show a rising number of high school girls have experienced rape, sexual assault and suicide risk.
Posted at 6:47 PM, Feb 13, 2023

A record high number of girls in high school have experienced sexual violence in the past year.

New data from the CDC says in 2021, 1 in 5 (18%) of girls in grades nine through 12 grade experienced sexual violence in the past year, and more than 1 in 10 (14%) had ever been forced to have sex.

"Which means that of every 10 teenage girls that, you know, at least one of them and probably more have been raped," Debbie Schmill said.

Last spring, Scripps News met Schmill and heard the story about her daughter, Becca. Becca was raped as a teen.

"Becca was sweet, kind, caring, loving," Schmill said. "When she was 15, she and some friends of hers were introduced to older boys, 18-year-old boys. One of the boys ultimately raped her. So this was the beginning of a downward spiral for her emotionally, and ultimately, that led to using substances. She and another girl who she met in rehab, they used a social media app to track down a drug dealer who had what they wanted. And what they got happened to be laced with fentanyl ,and it killed Becca."

Becca's heartbreaking story happened before this report, but it highlights some of the many long documented mental health impacts of rape.

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"As we're seeing an escalation in experience of violence, we are also seeing this increase in poor mental health at the same time," said Kathleen Ethier, director of the division of adolescent and school health at the CDC.

The new CDC findings also showed in 2021, more than half (57%) of U.S. teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless. One in 3 teen girls seriously considered attempting suicide, which is up nearly 60% from a decade ago.

To be clear,  Ethier says this isn't a story about what's wrong with teenage girls; it's about what's happening to teens overall and what's triggering that violence to begin with.

"We need to make sure that we are creating environments, and particularly school environments, that decrease the risk for all students and really try to understand what is leading to perpetration as well as experience of violence," Ethier said.

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The report also validates ongoing mental health struggles for the age range's LGBTQ+ students. More than 1 in 5 attempted suicide in the past year.

The CDC suggests school connectedness — which includes mentors and community service — as a way to help create safe spaces for teens.

Meanwhile, students like 17-year-old Kenia Gonzales say it comes down to curriculum."They don't teach consent, which is horrible because I know people who didn't know they have been sexually assaulted," Gonzales said.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline provides confidential crisis support, information, advice, and referrals for local assistance. Call: 1-800-656-HOPE | Chat: hotline.rainn.org