For you to know: Palm Beach County Victim Services and Certified Rape Crisis Center


As a parent of a teenager, are you feeling overwhelmed with parenting these days? Without in-person schooling and structured activities, there is little else for teens to do but scroll through social media and learn the latest viral dance. We’ve all become desperate for our teens to engage in positive social interactions with their peers.

We know danger exists for our teens outside the safety net of our homes. According to RAINN, the National Sexual Assault Helpline, one in nine females under the age of 18 has experienced sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult. In Palm Beach County, 11.3% of female teens reported being forced to engage in sexual intercourse (Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2017). In 2019, there were 91 reports of suspected human trafficking or commercial exploitation of children and teens in Palm Beach County (FL Department of Children and Families).

At Palm Beach County Victim Services and Certified Rape Crisis Center, we provide free comprehensive services to victims of crime. Our crisis services are available 24/7 and we provide advocacy services, therapy and professional trainings. The Palm Beach County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is a coordinated multidisciplinary team that responds to sexual violence throughout Palm Beach County.

Often parents ask, how do I protect my child or teen? First, start talking about inappropriate sexual behavior in elementary school and talk directly about sexual assault in middle school. We like to remind all young people that only yes, means yes. This can start with simple acts like holding hands and giving hugs. Empathy and respect for a peer’s bodily autonomy can greatly reduce unwanted sexual advances in our community.

Be real about the risks with your teens. Most people are assaulted by someone they know and trust. Some examples include a boyfriend, girlfriend, coach, neighbor, etc. Alcohol is often involved in sexual violence against young people. When talking about the risks of drinking alcohol include sexual assault. 

If your teen does report sexual violence, your number one job is to believe them. Our Start by Believing ( campaign started in 2016 with a goal of increasing supportive reactions to the disclosure of a sexual assault. Most sexual assaults are not reported and when they are there is often a delay. How do you talk about sexual violence victims in front of your children? Do you question their motives and behavior? If your child sees you victim blaming they may be less likely to report sexual violence. When we believe victim-survivors they are more likely to access other supports, medical care and report to law enforcement. 

If you would like to know more about Palm Beach County Victim Services please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @PBCVictimServices. Join us for a special Teen Talk Week, August 24-29, where we will engage in real talk about victim blaming, sexual assault and trafficking.

About Holly

Holly Carotenuto has over 10 years of experience in social services including outreach, case management and counseling. Holly worked at Broward County’s Nancy J Cotterman Center for four years as a sexual assault counselor and human trafficking coordinator. Previously, she worked for AtlantiCareBehavioral Health and Cape Counseling in New Jersey. Holly has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Virginia Tech and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling and Health Psychology from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Currently, Holly is the Sexual Assault Outreach Coordinator at Palm Beach County Victim Services. She is the mother of two children, Santino and Tessa, and enjoys hiking, biking, reading and consuming dark chocolate.