Confronting sexual abuse, in high school

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Exercises like this one help Santa Barbara high school students discuss healthy love. Photo: What is Love

California lawmakers approved a bill this week, that would require high schools to teach students about sexual assault and healthy relationships.

The state Senate approved it Monday on a 36-0 vote, sending it to the Assembly.

Under Senate Bill 695, health courses, which are a condition of graduation for a majority of California high school students, will include instruction on affirmative consent, sexual harassment, assault, violence, and the importance of developing positive, healthy relationships.

Jointly-authored by Senators Kevin de León and Hannah Beth Jackson, the bill builds off the “Yes Means Yes” law, which brings more sexual abuse awareness and resources into colleges.

According to a report prepared by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, 1 in 5 of all college women will be a victim of sexual assault during her college years. Local politicians like Jackson and de León believe this means sex education must go beyond “ the birds and the bees ” and attack more nuanced matters.

But, what would affirmative consent education look like in high school?

What is Love students spread the word at their high school. Photo: What is Love (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Capture4Some schools in Santa Barbara County are ahead of the curve. The What is Love program has been in local high and junior high schools since 2010.

Christy Haynes, the founder of the program, says she would have gotten a lot out of a program like this when she was in high school. She now shares her story with everyone who enters the door.

“I grew up in a family of violence, with a dad who was really jealous and possessive,” Christy tells a group of students. “And he hit. Watching and growing up around that, it sort of became my normal. So, when I started dating at 15 I was drawn to that same kind of person, who didn’t treat me with respect, who was jealous, who was possessive.”

Sadly, her story is not an anomaly. One in three teens in the country report experiencing physical, emotional, sexual or digital dating abuse. But, 80% of school counselors report being unprepared to address these problems. That’s where she comes in.

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