Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Part of what contributes to this problem is a lack of sex education. Currently, under the U.S. Federal Law, there are no set standards for sexual health education. In other words, the sexual health education students receive is highly variable. This is why sexual health education needs to be mandated and standardized by the federal government through initiatives like the Sexual Health from Teens program (SHIFT) at Berkeley High School.
One of the best parts about the program is that it allows students to learn about sensitive topics from their peers, which not only makes it less awkward, but also makes it feel more persuasive, as people know that their peers follow the same rules they do. This is especially true during adolescence, when peers’ opinions often matter most.
SHIFT also helps students by giving them full access to information about contraceptives and consent during a student-volunteering basis rather than hiring an outside professional. The program can also provide valuable information on how to handle situations in which one may be the target of sexual harassment by teaching students how to say no and how to report any misconduct.
Without the appropriate education, many students won’t be aware of the medical facilities and care available to them. As a result, they will have a harder time taking care of their health.
Empathy is also a key aspect of the initiative because the more students learn about the positive or negative impacts their actions can have, the more conscious and careful they are of their actions. Sex education is a way to normalize consent and make people feel more comfortable asking for it. It is also important that society normalizes consent because it makes any violations the exception, rather than the norm. In fact, according to Planned Parenthood, “Sex education reduces the risk of gender-based violence and bullying through teaching about these things to them or their peers.”
Overall, sex education not only explains to students what healthy relationships look and feel like, but also how to develop them and say no to any toxic relationships where they don’t feel safe or comfortable. It ensures that people understand their bodies and their rights while feeling empowered. This is why programs like SHIFT are a necessity at schools across the nation.