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Letters: To reduce campus sexual assaults, teach sex ed in middle, high schools | Letters

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One in 5 women, 1 in 16 men experience sexual assault while in college.

As campus sexual assault remains in the headlines, it is imperative that Louisiana institutions make a commitment to significant social and cultural change on their campuses to support survivors, hold offenders accountable and prevent sexual violence on their campuses.

But dating and sexual violence prevention should begin well before students arrive at college. We know that comprehensive sex education is a critical foundation to prevention of sexual violence in our communities, yet the state of Louisiana does not require schools to provide sexual health education.

Former state Rep. Patricia Smith of Baton Rouge sponsored numerous bills over the past decade that would have required Louisiana public schools to provide comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education. Sadly, these bills failed to pass out of committees to the full Legislature each year.

Comprehensive sex education goes beyond the biological basics of reproduction. It provides students with knowledge not only about abstinence, human development, anatomy, physiology, personal contraception and STI and HIV/AIDS prevention, but also on topics that directly help prevent sexual violence, like healthy relationships, consent, communication skills, media literacy and responsible decision-making.

When administered based on national best practices, sexual health curricula offer youth a wide range of information on how to deal with the social and emotional characteristics of sexuality, which can provide protection in the form of knowledge and help create a culture conducive to consent and healthy sexual development.

According to a benchmark study published in the Journal of American College Health in 2008, more than 50% of sexual assaults among college students occur in the first four months of the fall semester, with freshman students being most vulnerable. Waiting until students are enrolled to provide sexual violence prevention education leaves young people vulnerable. Our lawmakers must recognize the risk we put students in by not requiring comprehensive sex education in secondary schools.

Comprehensive sex education is protection, we must protect our community. Let’s commit to culture change throughout Louisiana by implementing comprehensive sexual health education to middle and high school students.

RACHEAL HEBERT

president, Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response

Baton Rouge

https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/opinion/letters/article_a5b7651e-8f11-11eb-a2ee-7b0f90b7a434.html

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