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Consent and Healthy Relationships



By Veronica Reyes (She/Her/Ella)


In the Central Valley of California, it is known that resources for education are limited.

With Stanislaus County, we experience some of the lowest- higher education rates in the state according to the U.S Census Bureau at 17.1% obtaining a bachelor's degree or higher versus the state average of 32.1%. The gap in education is feeding into the disparities in sexual health and education rates as well. According to the Stanislaus Community Health Assessment done in 2020, the county has shown that violent crime is higher than the state average from the years 2008-2017 the crime rate rose 5.5% in Stanislaus County versus the state which saw a decrease of 12%. Using education as a tool of prevention can be the key to progress towards lower rates of assault and rape.



Consent and Sexual Violence


Sexual Violence is defined as “any sexual act or attempts to obtain a sexual act, or

unwanted sexual comments or acts to traffic, that are directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion by anyone regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting...” (SVRI) Sexual violence has been a consistent ongoing crime within Stanislaus County. By seeing this consistency in crime in this area I’ve seen a lack of organizations here that cater specifically to just to target and teach about consent to prevent crimes such as rape, domestic abuse, and assault. The rates are only going to keep climbing if this problem keeps being ignored. There is aftercare readily available through counseling, health, and legal help. The big question is why is there aftercare available after these crimes happen but there is little to no prevention or outreach about this subject at hand. If one victim can be saved from these traumatizing experiences of sexual violence it is worth the time and energy trying to educate people at younger ages.


With sexual violence and abuse happening more often in the Stanislaus County region

and surrounding areas at alarming rates. Teaching children and younger ages how to properly identify their anatomy and red flags when it comes to predators should be held to the same standard as teaching someone about pregnancy and abstinence. It should be a mandate to teach warning signs of danger and potential violence that is or will occur. Resources also need to not be withheld when crimes happen but readily available in some physical form such as a list or printout that students and parents can have on hand in case of emergency. This physicality can make a difference especially if someone does not have access to online resources or a telephone-like some children would. Preventative measures like teaching real-world events also can prepare someone if they do happen to be in that situation or so happen to be a witness to cycles of abuse or sexual violence.


Rate of Exposure to Sex Education



Comprehensive sex education needs to start being taught at the root. Learning about

consent should be the building block to proper sex education. In the Central Valley the main

topics of discussion from the data I have collected for this research is pregnancy prevention, STI and STDs, and abstinence. Learning about safe sex practices and logistics should be at the forefront before teaching these subjects to students. In California the bill AB329 was put in place to mandate comprehensive sex education it states, “State law defines comprehensive sexual health education as “education regarding human development and sexuality, including education on pregnancy, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections”’. (CDE.CA) This law includes a lot of important topics but fails to implement the topic of consent. The absence of this subject can cause a grey area especially if an individual has no other place to learn about this subject. Leaving it up to the individual to seek out a subject on their own can turn into something dangerous quickly when nobody has taught them what is a right to go about the discussion and physical action of consent and what behavior is completely wrong when it comes to initiating or having sexual intercourse.


Literature Review


While researching literature the majority of researchers point out the younger

comprehensive sex education can make a big impact on society. According to Dr. Rebekah L. Rollston, a family physician wrote an article published in the Harvard Medical Primary Care

Review that “all young people deserve developmentally and culturally responsive, science-

based, and medically accurate life skills education.” Bringing this idea into the education system can radically change how we teach about consent in order to prevent violence. A study also pointed out that intervention programs need to go further than the classroom.


“Pre-college comprehensive sexuality education, including skills-based training

in refusing unwanted sex, may be an effective strategy for preventing sexual assault in

college. Sexual assault prevention needs to begin earlier; successful prevention before

college should complement prevention efforts once students enter college.”(PMC)


They advocated for early intervention because of the high rates of sexual assault in young adulthood. By providing efforts like self-defense classes, bystander awareness, and intervention can help alleviate social norms as well behind sexual violence. This can help with survivor awareness and stop victim-blaming. Especially when they bring the real-world aspect into this topic.


Data Response and Outreach


With this research, I have chosen to do a survey. This data was distributed through social

media and links. There were 28 participants who voluntarily chose to answer the 16 questions

presented in this survey. Demographics of the participants will be shown below.



I focused on young adults from 18-30 years of age. This was done to ensure participants

can voluntarily participate on their own terms of comfortability and anonymity. This age group was asked to recall their experiences with sex education in the Central Valley and what topics were presented to them at the time they were receiving their education. They were also a multitude of questions ranging from their rate of exposure to sex education to define the term consent as well. The question “how did you learn about consent?” was particularly interesting because it reiterated the idea of the individual having to seek out an external source to learn about this subject. Below the graph shows that online resources were the most popular way whether it was through a health website or an app like Instagram at 46.4%. The lowest was Doctors at 0%. Community Health Educators and Teachers tied in the lowest categories as well at 14.3%



From the data collected, it shows outreach needs to change to target a larger audience. The

right organizations can make a difference if they integrate technology that so many youth are

using. Applications like Instagram and TikTok are becoming major information hubs. By setting a safe and credible page where people can feel safe to ask questions can make a big impact. Even in the classroom submitting questions beforehand can make individuals more comfortable with asking versus having to do on the spot with other people around. Many people in the survey expressed that fostering a more inclusive and comfortable environment was much needed. One solution can be bringing in outside trained educators that don’t see these individuals daily. This anonymity can foster behavior that can make people feel more comfortable with asking questions they wouldn’t normally ask day today.


Sex education in Stanislaus County subject that is often not taught. By calling and

emailing several organizations I found that reproductive education and abstinence were at the forefront of the education aspect. By not having a designated program designed just for sexual assault intervention and prevention is a missed opportunity to help this violence stop. It is a systematic failure in the education system by not seeking out this topic even if it not required to be taught by the state of California. This topic can and will save lives if integrated into our school system.


Resources For Help


Sexual Assault: RAINN (800)656-4673

Mental Health: SAMHSA Helpline 1(800) 662-4357

Sexual Health: Planned Parenthood 1(877) 630-6434


In case of emergency call: 911


References


2019. leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB329.


“Definitions.” Definitions | Sexual Violence Research Initiative, 12 Apr. 2016,


svri.org/research-methods/definitions.


E, Miller. “Prevention of and Interventions for Dating and Sexual Violence in

Adolescence.” Pediatric Clinics of North America, U.S. National Library of Medicine,


pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28292456/.


Rebekah Rollston, MD. “Comprehensive Sex Education as Violence Prevention.” Primary


Care Blog, info.primarycare.hms.harvard.edu/review/sexual-education-violence-

prevention.

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