Posted on | July 25, 2009 | 13 Comments
A brand new study on sex education (or a current lack of it) out of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals an incredibly disturbing but not particularly surprising new number. Almost 10% of young women aged 18 to 24 reported that their first intercourse was involuntary.
This number matters a great deal, for a whole host of reasons. The first, of course, is that the rape of any woman matters, and 10% of any group of women being raped period is much, much too high. But it’s no secret that a rape can have a huge impact on a person’s future view of sexuality, and that view can be particularly affected if the abuse occurs early on. Not to mention that women who have been raped once are significantly more likely to be raped again.
Its also definitely worth talking about those who this study leaves out. It leaves out those childhood victims of sexual abuse who were not subjected to forcible intercourse, but exclusively other types of abuse. It leaves out those whose introduction to “sex” was oral rape, anal rape, or vaginal rape that was committed with fingers or an object, rather than a penis. And it leaves out the smaller but still very significant number of male survivors, as well. All of the above survivors exist, too. (*raises hand*) It’s important to start including and acknowledging them. To start acknowledging us.
But I do have to give the CDC credit for including questions about experiences with sexual violence in their study about experiences with sex education. I’ve long believed that there is some sort of connection between the two. I believe that sex education that includes a strong, clear, and positive emphasis on consent, as well as an emphasis of gender and sexual equality, can increase knowledge and reduce the rates of rape. I also believe that when survivors are able to identify their experiences — and as I know from experience, those who haven’t been taught to often can’t — they’re more likely to get help. Whether that means reporting the assault, getting out of an abusive relationship, or simply talking to someone, that matters.
I’m glad that the CDC included statistics about sexual assault in their study about sex education, because sexual assault is one of the many reasons why sex education absolutely needs to be better.