Sunday, January 26, 2020
News that made me feel sick, angry, and sad: the report of a Howard County School employee who worked with students charged with sex offenses. Coming a close second, the online commenter who wrote of the victim, “I bet her parents are so proud.”
Immediate victim blaming. Immediately deciding that whatever happened was consensual, even though the victim was under the age of legal consent. No attempt to see the story in any other way than “she asked for it.”
There are many things to address when a news story like this comes to light. I’m going to pick one you probably won’t see mentioned: the desperate need for comprehensive K-12 sex education. Programs like Our Whole Lives teach age appropriate concepts in developmentally appropriate ways. Bodily autonomy and consent are as relevant to young children as they are to teens, but the context is different.
Students who grow up understanding bodily autonomy, healthy boundaries, and the need for consent are less likely to fall victim to sexual predators. Is it also possible that making this kind of education a requirement might eventually reduce the number of sexual predators? I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out. I want to learn more.
It is also important that the adults our kids turn to have this kind of knowledge. Graduates of comprehensive K-12 sex education become adults who can support and advocate for victims, instead of blaming them. This is truly a long-term investment. And it is bound to meet opposition from those who think that avoiding and banning the topic from schools is the way to keep kids safe. This is the same mentality that asserts that knowing about sex is an enticement to immoral behavior.
I don’t think that the facts bear that out. I think our students deserve the best possible preparation for a healthy and happy life. We do them and our community at large a disservice by neglecting such a huge and life-changing topic.