Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia Launches New Campaign 'Step Up. Step In.' to Prevent Sexual Bullying

September 4, 2013
Originally published on Sep. 11, 2012
A collaborative campaign to stop sexual bullying among adolescents and teens is coming to Rome. The campaign - Step Up. Step In. - is headed by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) in partnership with the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA) and the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia.

"The campaign is designed to prevent sexual bullying in Rome," says Dr. Kimberly Redding, director of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Georgia Department of Community Health. "We are teaching adolescents and teens in the community about the offensive behaviors that can be sexual bullying so they do not perpetrate them against each other. Further, we are teaching youth and adults how to respond if they witness, hear about or suspect any form of sexual bullying."

Sexual bullying defines a broad category of adolescent and teen behavior that includes unwanted touching and groping, sharing obscene images, spreading sexually charged rumors about classmates and more. It can be violent or non-violent and affects children across the country.

Nationally, nearly half of seventh- through 12th-grade students experienced some form of sexual harassment electronically or in-person during the 2010 - 2011 school year, according to the American Association of University Women. Victims said sexual harassment affected their study habits, fueled their reluctance to attend school and even drove feelings of physical illness.

"Sexual bullying can subtly or blatantly affect our community's children," says Kim Davis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia. "It can be difficult to detect, but its consequences are real. We are very excited to have the Step Up. Step In. initiative in our community."

"Research shows many teens and adolescents may not even realize they are doing it because the behavior is perceived as socially acceptable," says GNESA CEO Jennifer Bivins. "The messages to our youth can be simple: Stop touching and groping others. Stop gossiping about sexual acts. Stop spreading rumors about someone's perceived sexual orientation. Stop sending lewd messages to others. It's not funny, and the behavior will not be tolerated in our schools, in our homes or in our communities."

What began as statewide research and a series of focus groups in 2010 has now materialized into a pilot campaign underway in Rome and three other Georgia cities, including Blairsville; Jonesboro; and Savannah - in partnership with local sexual assault centers and other partners.

For more information about the Step Up. Step In. campaign, visit or; or call the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia at (706) 292-9024.
-Reprinted with permission from the Rome News-Tribune