On November 13, 2019 I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and represent We Will in a meeting with a United States Senator regarding the efforts our nation can make to prevent sexual assault. I believe that although the laws regarding education are mandated by individual states, the federal government could still play a crucial role in preventing sexual assault. I wanted to meet with the Senator to discuss what the United States Government can do. I believe the best course of action for the federal government is to introduce federal grants for states which initiate sexual assault prevention programs in their public school systems.
A similar type of federal grant has already been introduced for other sexual education concepts including; sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, and teen pregnancy. There are actually two different federal grants for states which implement teen pregnancy prevention programs. Ideally, these two programs would be combined, which would then make room in the federal budget for the sexual assault prevention program grant I propose.
I was excited because the Senator and his staff were receptive to the idea. They had genuine interest and asked informed questions about how such programs could be executed. One critical question the Senator and his staff asked was, "are programs like this likely to work?" and the answer is a resounding "Yes!" For example, in Michigan, schools are not required to conduct a sexual education curriculum which includes sexual assault prevention, but there is a state-administered financial incentive available for schools which effectuate these programs. Not only do a great number of schools take advantage of this incentive, but studies show that students in these schools better understand critical sexual assault prevention concepts including consent, coercion, and refusal skills.
The states which have the highest rate of sexual assault and rape agree that prevention is one of the most important issues facing their citizens. However, most of these states wait until students reach the university level to teach them about vital sexual assault prevention concepts. By this time it is unfortunately too late. Persons ages 12-17 are considered to be at a high risk of becoming victims of sexual assault. As such, sexual assault education must start young. Fortunately, many states are beginning to recognize this.
For example, the state with the highest rate of sexual assault has historically been Alaska. Alaska has been in the top five highest states for the rate of rape and sexual assault for many years. During its most recent legislative session, Alaska introduced a sexual assault prevention program required for students in public schools. These programs will start this upcoming year and will teach students about consent, coercion, refusal skills, and more. Hopefully, other states will recognize the importance of starting these programs prior to university level and take action similar to that of Alaska.
While ideally other states would follow Alaska, many states unfortunately do not have the resources to develop and implement these sexual assault prevention programs. A federal grant would not only allow states to develop comprehensive programs which will make a substantial difference in sexual assault prevention, but will guide the states in doing so. The grant would allow states the time and resources necessary to prevent assault.
If you too would like to see the federal government make this change, I encourage you to write to both your state legislators and your federal representatives. Together, we will prevent sexual assault.