Although sex education is a focus of teaching in Fayette County schools, healthy relationships are often not a part of the conversation.
Fayette County middle and high school’s sex education program consists of teaching abstinence-only or a comprehensive curriculum; however, neither curriculum discusses forming healthy relationships. It is vital now, more than ever, to promote a balance of physical and emotional aspects of a relationship.
Without discussions surrounding healthy relationships, our youth is left in the dark about how to be treated, how to treat their partners, and how to form healthy relationships.
According to BreakTheCycle.org, with one in three high school students experiencing physical or sexual violence from a dating partner, teens need to become informed. The violence does not end when the relationship does — it follows the victim throughout their life. As vulnerable youth with many years ahead of them, victims face depression and anxiety at a higher risk.
The preventative measure that can change this statistic is education. Knowledge is power, especially in our youth — and this knowledge can be used to prevent domestic and sexual violence.
In focus groups conducted by the Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition, diverse groups of Lexington high school students revealed that there is a lack of education about healthy relationships both at school and at home. They went on to explain that they have a desire to learn about these types of relationships, and that they would feel comfortable talking about healthy relationships in a classroom setting.
The students stated that they looked to sex education as a source of guidance for developing relationships. They also added that they have a perception of relationships from social media and TV shows, but they recognize that the relationships portrayed are not achievable.
Without a proper curriculum and guided conversation, teens will continue to expect their relationships to be Instagram perfect instead of realistic and respectful. Without education, dating violence will remain an issue that many teens face alone and without direction.
Schools have the opportunity to make an impact on youth by thinking further about sex education. A curriculum that explains what healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships are will change how youth perceives relationships. Defining healthy relationships can evoke a keen understanding of what each person deserves in a relationship. By identifying what unhealthy and abusive relationships are, teens can be knowledgeable about when to end a relationship or seek help for them or others.
Educators can also propose scenarios teens may find themselves in and start a classroom conversation about what can be done in each situation. This new curriculum will aid in preventing future domestic violence.
As members of the community, we should be urging the education system to include the actual intimacy of sex in sex education. We can take steps toward helping our youth develop relationships that are healthy and respectful for both people involved. Preventative education can cost less than the steps needed to support victims and rehabilitate perpetrators after abuse.
More importantly, these preventative measures can help teens understand relationships and know when to seek help if needed. Kentucky is a state with one of the highest rates of domestic violence, sexual violence, and intimate partner stalking in the country. Our youth being well educated will lead to a future of adults that are in healthy relationships. Relationship education can influence and guide youth to foster meaningful relationships at a critical time in their life.
Christina Barone is Lexington Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition Intern. If you are in a relationship with a violent partner, help is available from people in your community who believe you and want to support you. Many of these services are available free of charge. Speak with a domestic violence advocate in your community or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.