What is sexual health?
Who you are – your body, sense of male or femaleness, who you feel attracted to, how you feel about how your body looks and feels, and what it does. Knowing your values and behaving in congruence with them.
How you are with others – sharing and caring, liking and loving others, how you express your gender, and using sexuality in interactions with others. Acting respectfully to people of all genders, sexes and orientations.
Taking care of your self – use protection to reduce risk of pregnancy, STIs, regular self-exams and preventive medical screening.
What do you mean I’m already promoting sexual health?
Young people learn by watching how adults behave, as well as from what the adults say. As a YDP, you are modeling how to “do relationships”, expectations about gender expression, and attitudes about body image and how sexuality should be expressed at various ages.
Whether or not you address harassing and bullying remarks – Name calling or taunting that goes unaddressed affirms the harasser not the target. Correcting hurtful sexual comments is very important and includes addressing sexually explicit slurs, threats and comments about perceived orientation or gender nonconformity of others. How safe is it for everyone to “be themselves”?
Grabbing opportunities to correct misinformation is increasingly important as teens get older. Most young people do not get accurate information about sexual health from school, family or their place of worship, so they rely on peers, media and the internet. Pay attention to what you hear and correct information that may not be accurate. Encourage them to involve caring adults.
Why does sexual health matter?
Research indicates young people do not have access to accurate information and healthy role models for sexual health. And having accurate information about sexual health and a caring adult in your life encourages positive health outcomes.
You are modeling sexual health behaviors anyway, and educating by being yourself in your role, expressing gender, bringing feelings about your body and expectations for the young people. You cannot not do it, your language and interactions convey much information.
Everyone had attitudes, values and beliefs about the many topics related to sexual health, especially as they relate to youth. When you are working it’s important that you base your actions and language on your professional and organizational values and ethics, not your personal beliefs.
You are positioned to assert yourself for the wellbeing of a young person by virtue of your role and status. Keeping young people safe by reporting suspected neglect and abuse is a vital part of a YDP’s role, and being informed will help ensure organizational policies are considered, and laws are complied with.
How can I best support sexual health in my organization?
- Be “askable”. Invite questions. Admit when you don’t have information and help find it. Use medically accurate language whenever possible.
- Know your “hot buttons” that will create a strong or biased reaction from you. Be prepared to manage these buttons.
- Know your organizations positions and values. If you have a professional affiliations (IE social work, psychology) know your code of ethics.
- Be informed about laws in your state, as well as policies and protocol at your agency, regarding reporting requirements, access to reproductive health services, requirements for sexuality education (if any).
- Know where to get accurate information about sexual health topics. Be familiar with community resources, as well as trustworthy websites for youth and adults.
- Address situations that provide “teachable moments”. Don’t let biased gender expectations, perceptions about sexual orientation, or other aspects of sexuality be the basis for name calling or bullying.
What resources should I know about?
- Internal staff and resources with training and experience in sexual health.
- Community resources, AASECT certified professionals
- Parents and families
- Websites for information about sexual health topics and developmental stages at different ages.
- Be informed about laws, policies, reporting requirements.
What resources exist to help me?
This website, mightyresource.org, is your first stop in learning more about addressing sexual health issues in your community based organization. We keep up to date news and information for youth development professionals and the community based organizations within which they work.
There are a wide range of other resources available to you, and we will review these and post them in this section. None of them are specific to CBO-based sexual health and sexual health education; however, they are excellent tools, curricula, and other resources to help you help the young people with whom you work!
What’s in a name? Clients, and kids, and young people, oh my!
Youth development professionals work in a variety of settings, from religious organizations to the local YMCA, from small towns to large urban centers, and while we all work with young people, we often refer to them by a variety of different names depending on where and with whom we work.
In this site, we will generally refer to the kids who use the services of community-based organizations as young people but we’ll also use other words from time to time–just like kids was used in this sentence.
- Young People
Just know that in all these cases, we simply mean the young people you work and care for, and if you don’t happen to use a specific word, or use some other word entirely, just replace it in your mind–and let us know about the other terms. We’ll add them to the list!