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Teens take a stand against sexual violence in Northeast Ohio

Rape survivor
Posted at 6:30 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 23:32:35-05

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Young people in Northeast Ohio are stepping up to try and prevent sexual assaults.

Conversations once considered taboo is now commonplace for Daijha Thompson.

“Sexual violence, dating violence,” said Thompson.

They started when she was just a freshman in high school.

“Being an ambassador helped a lot of my classmates, especially in the transition from high school to college,” said Thompson.

Thompson, now a senior at Syracuse University is a former Youth 360 ambassador.

“You learn so much about yourself while learning about this difficult conversation,” said Thompson.

Students in grades 6-12, in Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula, and Geauga counties, partner with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center to promote the prevention of sexual violence among their peers.

“They’re not willing to accept or tolerate bad behavior. It gives us the fuel we need at Cleveland Rape Crisis Center to continue supporting survivors,” said Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. "Seeing their interest in the topic and their willingness to take a stand that is something that is important to them it gives me hope for the future."

The training, conversations, and passion to protect are often utilized later in life.

“At some point in the future they’ve interacted with a friend, family member, a classmate, someone who’s experienced sexual violence and they felt prepared for that moment and prepared to have that conversation,” said Miller.

For Thompson, it was her freshman year in college when a friend shared with her that she had been sexually assaulted.

“She was like I have no idea if this was rape, I don’t know where to go from here. I was able to walk her through kind of some of those steps and point her to some of the resources that were on campus,” said Thompson.

Being that point person in such a painful moment Miller said helps survivors feel believed and supported.

“Decades ago it was a very secretive topic that not many people were willing to talk about and that ultimately hurt survivors,” said Miller.

Despite leaving the Youth 360 program nearly four years ago, Thompson will always advocate for survivors and the prevention of sexual assault.

“If anything, it’s made the people around me feel more comfortable having those conversations with me and kind of feel like they have a safe space where they know that someone will believe them,” said Thompson.