OPINION: High school sex education helps prevent assault in college
Colleges across the country have problems with sexual assault on campus. While many have put measures in place to reduce this, high schools should implement comprehensive sex education so prevention can start much earlier
A 2020 report by the Association of American Universities said 13% of students have experienced some form of sexual assult while in college, and USF is not immune to this.
The university launched an investigation in 2020 into several sexual assult cases when Chelsea Engel, a former USF student, shared her story on Twitter, prompting others to do the same.
Former USF President Steven Curall issued a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” and described the steps he would take to combat the issue, such as running a climate review of USF Fraternity and Sorority Life and calling for an internal review to determine how the university can better prevent sexual violence.
Unfortunately, the problem has not gone away. The USF Police Department sent an email Jan. 21 informing the student body of “sexual battery” on campus.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization defines comprehensive sex education as teaching “about the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social aspects of sexuality.” This type of education focuses heavily on healthy relationships and boundaries and a well-rounded approach to sex.
A major reason this is helpful in preventing sexual violence is because it teaches students how to say ‘no.’ A 2018 study by Columbia University showed that students who received refusal skills training were significantly less likely to experience sexual assault in college.
“Sexual assault prevention needs to begin earlier. Successful prevention before college should complement prevention efforts once students enter college,” John Santelli, lead author of this study, said.
This education also teaches students the details of consent which is important, not only when it comes to sexual relationships, but all aspects of life. It teaches students that it can be revoked at any time and consent to one thing does not mean consent to everything.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center said about half of sexual assault against women is committed by an intimate partner. This is likely because men tend to perceive higher levels of consent when there had been previous sexual activity, according to a 2017 study.
This study showed there are several factors, such as their previously held beliefs toward sexual assault, that may cause men to perceive consent and desire from their partner as higher than they actually are, leading them to engage in sexual misconduct.
Simple miscommunications like these can result in lasting trauma. A full understanding of consent can help prevent these types of misunderstandings.
Comprehensive sex education is important because it encourages open communication about sex and it teaches students the importance of respecting boundaries. It is important to teach these values at a young age to prepare students for healthy future relationships.
Some people, such as Cullen Herout, author for Blaze Media, do not agree. Herout said in a 2016 article that he believes sex education should be removed from schools entirely. He describes this type of education as “indoctrination” and “perversion” and insists that school is no place for conversations about sex.
It’s this very thought process that contributes to the problem. Refusing to have open, healthy discussions about sex can result in misunderstandings and misinformation that lead to sexual assault later in life.
Many conversations around sexual assault focus on preventing the issue on college campuses, but this is far too late. High schools should lay the foundation for understanding sex and consent early in life through a comprehensive sex education program.