Updated: Feb 11, 2020
By Eleni Pacheco
This Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month remember that sex ed is proven to reduce violence and exploitation. All young people deserve safety.
As adult educators and policymakers, we have the power to change the environment in which young people form relationships. We are calling on the State Board of Education to include relationship and consent education in their revision of health ed standards this year. Effective education does more than help potential victims recognize abusive behavior and seek support, it prevents young people from becoming abusers in the first place.
Social and emotional learning skills are foundational to quality sex ed. Humans are social animals, building our lives around relationships that require maintenance and management. Violent behavior typically starts to surface between 12 and 18 years old, with 1 in 3 high school students experiencing abuse in their intimate relationships. We now know that defining abuse isn’t enough to prevent it, we have to contextualize healthy vs. unhealthy behavior in a way that is practical and relevant to the world that young people navigate today.
Young people can easily refer to abstract characteristics like “trust” and “equality” when talking about healthy relationships but have a harder time identifying or applying behaviors that meet those definitions. For example, a 2016 study surveyed college-aged men to understand the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. The majority of participants did not admit to rape or sexual assault but did admit to coercive or forceful behavior, leading experts to believe that there is a gap in men’s understanding of consent and abuse. By failing to properly educate young people, we are complicit in intimate partner violence and assault.
With February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, empowerment programs are popping up all around our community. The Girls Global Summit, for example - an incredible event hosted by young people, for young people - is taking place this Saturday. High school students are convening around a report published by city officials that focuses on the Status of Women in San Antonio and centers on two major topics including men’s violence against women. The summit has amazing potential for positive impact, attracting around 400 people annually. As primary stakeholders in intimate partner violence, it is no wonder that our young leaders are taking responsibility for their own education on these matters. We have to remember, however, that it is not young women’s responsibility to solve this issue, it is the responsibility of our social institutions.
Stand with us as we address the health and wellness of our city and state. Come to the Girls Global Summit to hear what teens have to say about the relationships they are seeing and experiencing. Visit our State Board of Education Advocacy homepage to see how you can get involved in changing the lives of young people across Texas.