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    May 2017

    Training Children on Sexual Violence Prevention

    grade school girl raising hand in classroom

    Sexual assault among youth in K-12 schools is often a hidden, but chronic problem. For example:

    Fortunately, age-appropriate sexual violence education can teach K-12 students to identify, prevent, and report sexual violence, studies show.

    Age-Appropriate Education

    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 sexual violence prevention and consent 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

    A common misconception is that elementary school students are too young to receive any type of education relating to human sexuality. At this age, 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 anyone 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. Middle schools can enhance their consent education programs by covering

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

    9th-12th Grade

    Nearly half of all high school students in the U.S. have had sex. For this reason, consider training 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, consider covering 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 is not consent under the school’s definition
    • School, law enforcement, and confidential reporting options for students who are victims of sexual violence
    • The 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.

    Starting around grade 6, schools may want to consider countering the inaccurate information students are getting online. Concepts to consider addressing include:

    • Whether it is possible to engage in non-consensual 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
    • Requiring relationship partners to provide full social media access is abuse. For example, some students provide their Twitter passwords to people they date to demonstrate commitment to the relationship

    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 cyber-bullying, and reporting to law enforcement.

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

    By providing an age-appropriate curriculum, schools can help prevent the serious problem of sexual violence on their campuses.


    Deborah Roffman Sex & Sensibility
    Love Is Respect

    Break the Cycle

    Tea Consent

    Teaching Tolerance from the Southern Poverty Law Center

    Gender Spectrum

    Sex Info Online by UC Santa Barbara

    Adolescents’ Experiences of Sexual Assault by Peers: Prevalence and Nature of Victimization Occurring Within and Outside of School (2008) pp. 1077-78

    Title IX and Sexual Harassment in K-12 Public Schools: Key Steps to Compliance
    Student Sexual Harassment in Independent Schools: Is Title IX the Standard for Responding?

    CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States (2015) pp. 10-11, 119 

    By Melanie Bennett, associate risk management counsel


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