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Rape allegations have students upset

Veronica Whitney

EAGLE-VAIL – To Battle Mountain High School junior Sarah Thomason, the news that a student at her school has been accused of raping two other students came us a surprise.”I would have never suspected it. I would have never suspected a teenager could do that,” said Thomason, 16.Although she is disturbed by the news, Kendall Gotthels, 14, a freshman at the high school, said she’s aware sexual assault is a problem in society.”A lot of teenagers, especially my age, don’t know how extreme this is,” she said. Although none of her friends have put themselves in situations where they could be sexually assaulted, Gotthels said, others have been sexually harassed.”Boys grabbed their butts,” she said.Sexual assault among teenagers isn’t common, but it is on the rise, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said. “We are starting to see inappropriate sexual behavior at a younger age,” he added.Two teenagers, both 16, have told police they have been raped by a 17-year-old Battle Mountain High School student. Last week, police arrested the senior, who lives in Wildridge and whose identity has been withheld because he is a juvenile.The boy was officially charged on Wednesday with two counts of sexual assault and remains in custody. Members of his family said they did not want to comment for this story. Girls told friends, not parentsDeena Ezzell, a victim’s advocate with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, said sexual assault victims often wait to report their crime or never tell authorities at all. In the case of the two girls, Avon Police Detective Mike Leake said, they didn’t tell their parents, but they told their friends,”Kids always cover for kids,” Leake said. Although one of the alleged rapes took place more than a year ago, police only became suspicious three weeks ago following a fight in the school between the suspect and an alleged victim’s boyfriend.”They don’t report it because there’s a great amount of shame,” Layman said. “Sex assault victims sometimes blame themselves.”We have anywhere from eight to 12 sexual assaults in Avon every year,” Layman added. “I’m most concerned with victims out there who aren’t getting the help they need to deal with such a traumatic event. The trauma that these girls experienced is profound and the longer they try to deal with it by themselves, the more of a toll it takes on them.”Hanging out with ‘the right people’When Leake interviewed one of the alleged victims, she told him she was attacked and sexually assaulted by the boy in October when she was at a small party at a home in Wildridge. The second girl was allegedly raped at a home in Eagle-Vail in 2003, police said. “One (incident) was on a weekend and the other one was during school hours at a private residence,” Layman said.When interviewing an alleged sexual assault victim, Leake said he does it in a manner that is most comfortable to them. In this case, Leake interviewed the two alleged victims and the suspect with their parents present.”These girls both appear to be upfront. It was hard for them,” he said.Leake said there are ways to make them feel safe, such as putting a restraining order on suspects to prevent them from contacting their accusers. To avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault, Kendall Gotthels said she never puts herself in dangerous situations. “I make sure I’m hanging out with the right people,” she said.And Sarah Thomason said the accusations against the student have made her more aware. “I wouldn’t put all my trust in someone I don’t know,” she said.Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or vwhitney@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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