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At first, Shaffer's mother did not take her daughter seriously, thinking she was “making the whole story up to get attention”. Shaffer says she has since come to realise that her experience was not that uncommon for a victim of sex abuse. “In Steamboat Springs, if you’re a young girl and you’re talking to someone who is four years older, that person is often a man. It’s really hard to speak to a man about something like this when you’re a young girl.” Shaffer is now speaking out about sexual abuse, using her own experiences to help other young women in similar situations. “It’s really easy to make a decision to not tell anybody, or a decision to tell the person who abused you, but there’s really nothing easier than to say, ‘I’m going to tell somebody else’, and you don’t do it. And then the person who abused you gets away with it because nobody ever says anything.” Shaffer says having a supportive network of friends and family has made a huge difference to her life. “[My mother] has helped me through this. She has helped me talk to people and she has helped me know that I have a lot of support in this town, and I don’t have to be alone.” Shaffer is currently studying at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she works as a peer support coordinator and is active in victim support. She has also become involved in producing a documentary film on the impact of sexual assault in the U.S. and Canada, and hopes to use her experience to support other young victims. “If my story can help some other girl, some other child, that’s what’s really important.” For more on Steamboat Springs and the story of Tara Shaffer, visit www.tariasaid.com. As a child growing up in Steamboat Springs, Tara Shaffer says that she didn’t see herself as a victim of sexual abuse until much later. Photo by Stephen Shaver for The Gazette. As a child growing up in Steamboat Springs, Tara Shaffer says that she didn’t see herself as a victim of sexual abuse until much later. Photo by Stephen Shaver for The Gazette.
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