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1 in 9 Montana high school students say they've been raped

Sex crimes kit
Posted at 9:19 AM, Apr 06, 2022

BILLINGS - Eleven percent of Montana high school students have been forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to, according to the 2021 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The survey, completed by 98% of the state's school districts, polled 22,576 students anonymously in grades 7-12 in the spring of 2021. The results were published last fall. The middle school numbers are compiled in a different table.

"It’s incredibly difficult to hear, especially when you think it’s 1 in 10 kids," said Renee Schoening, executive director of the Montana School Counselors Association, recently. "It's an awful thing to contemplate. But it doesn't surprise me. In my time as a counselor, I've heard lots of stories."

School sexual violence
11 percent of Montana high schoolers say they've been forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to, according to the 2021 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

"The mental health professionals have had a number of students talk to them about it," said Jessica Buboltz, the MSCA board chair and a current Hellgate High School counselor. "Sometimes it’s not necessarily reported to the school. Sometimes it'll be reported to the authorities."

Buboltz said her school administrator will report alarming cases to police. Missoula County’s numbers are slightly lower than average at 10.1%. Yellowstone County is right in line at 11.1%.

According to Billings police statistics, there were 37 offenses for sexual abuse of children in 2021, and 15 offenses for statutory rape.

Billings youth sexual violence
2021 data on sexual violence against minors in Billings

"It’s something we need to work towards, at all schools across the board," Buboltz said.

The numbers are worse in the state’s more rural districts. Golden Valley is one of two districts at over 20%. Musselshell is at 16.2%, and Big Horn County is the third highest in Montana at 17.5%.

"And it's the schools that are in those isolated locations that need it more than anybody," Schoening said. "Many counselors working in those more rural districts say they’re the only person within 100 miles with any kind of mental health training."

Youth sexual violence counties
Many of the state's largest school districts fall in line with the 11 percent average of Montana high schoolers who say they've been raped at some point in their lives, according to the 2021 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

It’s why Schoening has dedicated her life to this issue.

"I teach curriculum that teaches kids between safe touch and unsafe touch," she said. "When they know that that's not normal and you give them the tools and tell them what they need to do if they experience something like that, then they can go and get the help that they need.

"We have to do something for our kids. We have to. It’s not an option anymore."