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Planned Parenthood is the largest source of sex education across our region, reaching more than 40,000 adults and young people. Highly trained sex educators are invited in to public and private schools, community centers, scout troops, churches, health clinics and more teach a variety of topics. In recent years, the most requested topic, by youth and adults alike, is the topic of consent.

In the recent wake of thousands of survivors speaking out about their experiences with sexual violence and harassment, this is good news. Sexual violence and harassment happen in every community – and have for a long time. That’s why black civil-rights activist Tarana Burke created the MeToo movement in 2006 to bring attention to sexual violence against women and girls of color. More than a decade later, #MeToo became a hashtag and more and more people have come forward to tell their stories and demand change.

The national narrative has focused on what we can do to hold adults accountable. But, what about young people? This is where Planned Parenthood can help drive a culture of consent in the wake of the #MeToo Movement. 

In order to prevent sexual violence, young people need access to sex education that includes consent and healthy relationships, starting well before college and well before they become sexually active.

The next generation, our future business and government leaders, will ultimately determine whether sexual violence and harassment persists. And we have a responsibility to reach them now. Young people need to know how to recognize what harassment looks like, how to stop it from happening, and how to avoid becoming perpetrators. Planned Parenthood’s sex educators help young people build skills in saying yes or no, asking for permission, listening and respecting a person’s responses in any communication (not just around sex), and practicing skills in accepting rejection. No matter the question asked, PPMNS educators find a way to bring consent into the answer.

Consent education is sexual assault prevention, and an essential part of sex education.

Sex education is a natural fit for teaching these lessons and already well-integrated into the curriculum at Planned Parenthood. As we move forward, we must hold abusers and harassers accountable – but we also must continue to take real steps to prevent violence and harassment in the first place. Sex education that includes consent is a powerful tool to help prevent sexual violence.

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