The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education received a $10,000 grant from the Fairfield County Community Foundation's Fund for Women and Girls for the Girls Circle program.

The Girls Circle is a support group developed by the One Circle Foundation that addresses the needs of girls ages 9 to 18, and is designed to increase positive connections, personal and collective strengths and competence.

The center's executive director, Ivonne Zucco, said, "I am thrilled that for the second consecutive year, the Fund for Women and Girls is supporting the unique efforts of the center by funding our Girls Circle program, which focuses on `at-risk' teens in Lower Fairfield County. Girls Circle maintains that girls have the basic right to safety and health. In fact, as we see all too often, many girls need protection and safety from relational, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. This is a sad, but true reality."

With this funding, the center's crisis counselors will establish support groups in middle and high schools in lower Fairfield County. The goal is to empower approximately 70 adolescent girls during the funding period, plus develop future leaders who will take a stand against sexual violence.

The center has spent more than 35 years focused on helping survivors of sexual abuse. It provides crisis counseling and advocacy services to victims of sexual violence and works toward eliminating sexual violence through community-wide education programs. The Girls Circle model conforms to the center's view on what is needed to break the cycle of a culture that enables sexual violence.

"Girls Circle, a well-regarded evidence-based program, empowers girls by teaching resiliency skills while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of good choices," Suzanne B. Peters, vice president of the Fund for Women and Girls said. "The center is well known in lower Fairfield County for its effectiveness at helping women survive and recover from sexual abuse, and the Girls Circle offering will continue to bolster the confidence and esteem levels of our region's girls thwarting their likelihood of becoming future victims."