I grew up with “no means no.” Young people these days may hear “no means no” or “yes means yes” … or nothing at all about sexual assault and how to prevent it. A recent national survey conducted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that most people reported that their parents did not talk with them about issues of consent and sexual assault– and if conversations on these issues did happen, they were different for daughters and sons.
The survey also found that less than a third of U.S. adults were taught about consent in high school and less than a fourth in middle school. People were most likely to have been taught how to say no to sex, and least likely to have been taught how to ask for consent. It’s no wonder there’s still so much confusion.
Planned Parenthood is committed to sparking more conversation about this issue in order to prevent sexual assault. Recently, we partnered with the North Dakota State University Sexual Assault Prevention Program to host a campus screening of the film “The Hunting Ground.” The film reveals a systemic problem of sexual violence across college campuses. We were thrilled by the attendance of hundreds of students and community members.
At Planned Parenthood we believe that parents should be the primary sex educators of their children. Talking to your children about sex can be awkward, but we are doing our children a disservice if we do not explain what consent looks like and how to communicate in relationships. We’re here to provide resources to help– resources that can help teach kids what consent is and how to practice it.
Our North Dakota programs include courses for parents, workshops for adults who work with youth, and programming for youth. Planned Parenthood has also developed a series of videos to teach what consent is, and show what these kinds of conversations actually look like. Sex ed is another opportunity for young people to build these skills and learn how to communicate their boundaries and desires, how to determine their partner’s boundaries and desires, and how to negotiate between the two.
It’s also not enough for us to only talk with young women about how to say no to sex or how to reduce their risk of being sexually assaulted – all young people need the tools and skills to ensure healthy, respectful, and mutually consensual experiences.
And according to the survey, there is overwhelming public support for addressing these issues with young people. No one wants their child to experience sexual assault. As community members, parents and educators, we need to make sure our young people have the skills, resources and information to be safe and healthy in their relationships.
Education about consent is sexual assault prevention. We simply won’t be able to curb sexual violence without it.
As printed in the Fargo Forum and the Jamestown Sun
By Katie Christensen, ND Education and Outreach Manager for Planned Parenthood MN,ND, SD