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    October 2020

    Train K-12 Students on Sexual Violence Prevention

    Use age-appropriate sexual violence education to teach K-12 students to identify, prevent, and report sexual violence.


    Sexual assault among youth in K-12 schools is often a hidden, but chronic problem. Age-appropriate sexual violence education can teach students to identify, prevent, and report sexual violence, studies show.

    Experts recommend that educators introduce the concepts of consent and prevention early and add to this curriculum over time. School and community educators can teach these concepts as standalone trainings, during school-year orientation, in sexual education courses, or, ideally, through a variety of courses and trainings throughout the year.

    Prevention curriculum topics vary by grade range.


    Kindergarten-5th Grade

    There’s a common misconception that elementary school students are too young to receive education relating to human sexuality. Consider centering education around basic topics of consent such as:

    • Bodily autonomy
    • The right to say no
    • The meaning of consent
    • Where and to whom to report someone who violates their autonomy 

    6th-8th Grade

    Students start to form romantic relationships around ages 11 to 13, so that can be a good time to address intimate partner violence. Explain what it is, how to recognize it, and what to do if it occurs. Enhance middle school consent education programs by covering:

    • State-specific definitions of consent and statutory rape
    • Examples of what is and isn’t consent in the context of sexual activity

    9th-12th Grade

    Roughly 40% of all high school students in the U.S. have had sex, according to a 10-year survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For this reason, train them on consent, sexual violence, and reporting, similar to what college students receive.

    For example, high school training might include when a person is incapable of giving sexual consent due to age, incapacitation, or intellectual disability. Additionally, explain the difference between intoxication and incapacitation. It may be helpful to note that, although intoxication does not preclude consent, many sexual situations without consent involve intoxication of the perpetrator or victim. Additional topics for high school trainings might include:

    • School and jurisdiction definitions of sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, and consent
    • Examples of what is and isn’t consent under the school’s definition
    • School, law enforcement, and confidential reporting options for students who are victims of sexual violence
    • Your school’s sexual misconduct policies and procedures

    The Influence of Technology and Pornography

    Unrealistic and misleading information on sexuality, including pornography, is easily accessible online and affects sexual development. Pornography is so pervasive that students commonly view pornography on campus at all school levels using their phones and computers.

    Consider countering inaccurate information students in sixth grade and beyond are getting online.

    Concepts to address:

    • It is possible to engage in nonconsensual sexual activity online.
    • Online sexual activity generally lives in perpetuity, regardless of privacy settings or software promising to erase content after a limited time.
    • Minors can be charged with the creation and possession of child pornography.

    Tapping Community Resources

    Community resources can be a good source for topics or groups requiring specific expertise. Nonprofit organizations and resource centers often make presentations at schools for free or at a reduced cost. They can cover topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation, technology and cyberbullying, and reporting to law enforcement.

    Many high quality, free resources are available online. Some provide sample curricula for educators. Others provide content students can access directly. See the resource list below for suggestions.

    By providing an age-appropriate curriculum, your school can help prevent the serious problem of sexual violence.


    Additional Resources

    Deborah Roffman Sex & Sensibility
    Love Is Respect

    CDC: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States (2017)

    By Melanie Bennett, Risk Management Counsel


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