On Monday, Chelsea Fagan posted “10 Things They Should Have Taught Us In Sex Ed” on Thought Catalog. Her 10 things are split 60/40 between smacking down terrible myths and perceptions presented in media (the first point is, “Porn is really misleading.”) and practical, “everybody does it” statements.
So, what is missing from the list? Healthy relationship dynamics. As an avid tumblrer (is that what they are called) who is subscribed to a number of sexual health and sex ed tumblrs, questions ending in the statement, “Was I raped?” or, “Is this a normal guy thing?” in reference to relationship abuse are asked, and answered, regularly.
How are teens in positions where they haven’t learned about relationship abuse?
Only 12 states require the coverage of teen dating violence in their sex ed curriculum and of those, only 4 have created a model curriculum for teachers (from the National Conference of State Legislatures).
People in my age bracket had the swath of parents who had to read Reviving Ophelia, which was a supposed to be a catalyst for discussions about developing self esteem and personal autonomy between mothers and daughters. I vaguely remember the attempting to read it around age 13 after having pulled it from my mom’s bookshelf from its home between the ASL dictionary and some other managing your difficult teen book.
Even with that book sitting on the shelf, and in contrast to the fairly open line of communication (for a mom and a “difficult” teen), but to my recollection, we did not discuss relationship abuse. Even when I reached the point that I was clearly in an abusive relationship, it wasn’t a topic we adressed candidly (although, I do remember there being some subtext laden statements about how I needed to make my own decisions.)
According to the CDC, 1 in 11 teens experiences physical violence at the hand of a dating partner and 1 in 3 suffer emotional, physical or sexual abuse. While there is something to be said for parents being the primary teachers of sexuality education, the schools should also be giving students tools to be successful and protect themselves from abuse.
So, why have only 10% states created a model curriculum for how to teach DV to teens? (for a look at what this kind of curriculum looks like, check out Seattle/King County’s FLASH curriculm, which I reviewed here.) Why don’t more than 20% have any requirement to teach it? Is it because DV lessons eventually go hand in hand with comprehensive sexuality ed?
The photo included above is from the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness, which contains all of the information that should be taught alongside with anatomy and STIs.
Coming soon: Link Round Up: Abuse Awareness