Advocates seek to add sexual violence education into Missouri curriculum
JEFFERSON CITY – Sobering statistics and the rising tide of the #MeToo movement has led to possible legislative action in Missouri.
“Sexual assault and sexual violence happen far too frequently,” It’s On Us Director Tori Schafer said. “We see it in the media, we see it on our campus, we know friends who have gone through it or we’ve personally been through it. So we really want to prevent that from happening.”
The Centers for Disease Control reported 30 percent of female sexual assault victims were first attacked during middle and high school, between the ages of 11 and 17.
According to the Justice Department, nearly 20 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.
To combat these statistics, more than ten advocates for sexual violence education testified in a hearing on Tuesday to support House Bill 2234.
The bill would include another guideline for schools that teach basic health classes, adding education about consent, sexual violence and harassment.
“With everything that’s happened with #MeToo in the fall and the public awareness about sexual harassment, we think it’s really timely to expand the statute to really be thinking about how we can provide more information to high school students,” said Jennifer Carter Dochler, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence public policy director.
Multiple organizations, including Planned Parenthood, Associated Students of the University of Missouri and It’s On Us said they support the bill because students need to know this information before entering college.
“I took a sex education course my sophomore year of high school and none of this was mentioned,” Schafer said. “We never really dove into what consent is, when do you realize when consent is being accepted, when do you realize it’s being revoked.”
Schafer, with the help of It’s On Us, wrote the original version of the bill last year. She said she has such a connection to the topic because she was sexually assaulted during her high school experience.
“I don’t think that a lot of people knew what I was going through or even what sexual violence was,” Schafer said.
Schafer said if she had curriculum similar to this in her high school, it could have helped her seek resources outside of her school to help deal with what she was going through emotionally.
If the bill passes, advocates hope educating students early could prevent the frequency of sexual violence on high school and college campuses.