(July News) In July, our Okanogan Healthy Youth (OHY) team flew all the way to Chicago to learn about the newest practices and best research in sexual health education with leaders from across the country. These nation-wide opportunities are rare for rural communities like ours, so we asked two members of our traveling OHY team, Keri Moore and Caitlin Cordell, to pick one particularly transformative learning. Without pause, they both identified a workshop called “Sexual Health and Persons with Disabilities.”
Here’s what they learned: violence, abuse, and bullying are frequent realities for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities -- children with any type of disability are 3.7 times more likely to experience violence than children without disabilities, and 2.9 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse. This information struck a chord with the OHY team. Across Okanogan County and in the Methow Valley School District, where 13% of 2018 enrolled students disclosed having a disability, we want to do better.
Here are a few common misconceptions about sexual health and people with disabilities:
They are not able to consent and therefore should not be taught about sexuality
They need to be stopped from expressing their sexuality.
It’s ok to breach their confidentiality by having personal conversations about sexuality with caregivers in the room.
They can’t ever expect to want marriage or children.
They should only be taught about the dangers of sex and not about healthy relationships.
These misconceptions can perpetuate the powerlessness of people with disabilities and lead to further harm. Looking at the 2019/2020 school year the OHY team will consider even more deeply the needs of students with disabilities and implement changes that will empower all of our youth - leaving no youth behind.