As we come to the end of April, which is sexual assault awareness month, we want to talk about healthy adolescent sexual development.
Sexuality is much more than having sex. It is our values, attitudes, feelings and behaviors. Sexuality is emotional, social, cultural and physical. Sexual development begins much earlier in life than adolescence and in the absence of healthy messages, many young people turn to other sources of information. But peers, the internet and the media are not necessarily the best educators when it comes to understanding boundaries.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, an awareness of healthy sexuality can help prevent violence by encouraging boundaries and consent and helping adolescents feel empowered to ask questions and seek support when they need it.
It’s critical for kids to have an adult in their life for support and guidance – especially when it comes to making life-changing decisions about sex.
We urge you to be fully engaged in your kids’ lives – whether you are a parent, an aunt, a cousin or a mentor of a young person. Ask questions and don’t pass judgment. For tools to help you start that conversation, visit http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/current-campaign.
We also have tools on the island to help teens – especially those who aren’t able to ask a family member or adult for guidance. The Island Reproductive Health Initiative is a local nonprofit that provides sexual and reproductive health information and resources. You can receive confidential medical care (with financial assistance) at Orcas Family Health Center, Orcas Medical Center and Orcas Island Family Medicine.
There are free condoms at the above medical facilities as well as at island businesses. For a full list, go to https://www.facebook.com/IRHIorcas.
We applaud the volunteers who keep this program running. It’s a topic that can be controversial and much of their work is behind the scenes. Thank you for playing a part in keeping our kids safe and healthy.
Don’t be afraid to talk about sexual education with your kids. One of the best ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies, STDs or sexual assault is providing information. In the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better you do better.”