KwikZips: The Late Night Edition

Sex in the CBO: What Will You Do?

Community based organizations play a vital role in the lives of our young people. They are places where youth come for support, to interact, and to feel safe. A young person approaches you with a situation similar to one of these. What would you do?

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A church group, after school programs, the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, Girls Inc.

Community based organizations play a vital role in the lives of our young people. They are places where youth come for support, to interact, and to feel safe.

You work in a CBO. You care about youth. A young person approaches you with a situation similar to one of these. What would you do?

I’m sure many of you are asking, what’s sexual health got to do with me and my community based organization? To answer that, let’s start with sex.

What is sexual health?

Although sex, physical sex acts that is, may be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about sexual health, really sex is just the tip of the sexual health iceberg!

Sexual health is about relationships, and its about identity. Sexual health is about who we are and how we relate to others, emotionally, socially, and, of course, physically.

And because of this holistic view, sexual health really is relevant to all of us all our lives, from cradle to grave, right to left coast, and your backyard to your CBO.

And when sexual health is going well, people are healthier. People are happier. They are in good relationships. They feel good about who they are and how they relate to others in their lives. But things don’t always go smoothly, and when they don’t, what will you do?

What kinds of sexual health issues are youth in your organization likely to encounter and how can you help?

Sexual harassment

Did you know schools are second only to the military in the number of reported incidents?

Puberty changes

They wonder, am I normal? Is this usual? Many young people have had no one tell them about the changes that are coming and the things that happen to their body.

Sexuality related name-calling

Whether based on perceived sexual orientation or kids simply using gay or faggot as general descriptions, adults often let name-calling go because they think its not a big deal, or they don’t know how to handle it.

Assault and exploitation

Sadly one quarter of females and one in seven males report sexual assault by age of eighteen.

Risk reduction

This is especially relevant to older adolescents and teens, many of whom do not know about STI risk or preventing pregnancy

Relationship issues

Whether dating, breaking up, or feeling pressured to add physical sexuality to the relationship, youth must explore many new interpersonal situations.

Bottom line? Youth face sexual health issues they often aren’t prepared for. These issues can, in fact they will, surface in your organization. They are a normal part of healthy development, and You Can Help!

And if you don’t help, and these issues are not addressed, then what’s the worst that can happen you might ask?

If harassment is allowed to continue, young people will not be safe. Boys and girls, whether victim or perpetrator, will learn that harassment must be okay.

This is true of other harassment too. Overweight kids catch a lot of this as well. And body image is definitely part of sexual health! What will you do? If a supportive adult with accurate information is not available, then sexual development will continue to be scary and young people clueless. Body changes, periods, wet dreams, pregnancy, misconceptions abound and adulthood looms large. Schools, church, parents? Research shows they often are not doing the job. What will you do?

Not addressing name-calling. They are just kids being kids, right, and words can’t kill. But words CAN kill. And kids have killed themselves in response to this kind of abuse. When we don’t address the language young people use around us, we are saying the language is ok. What will you do?

Assault and exploitation surely don’t occur in the lives of young people at your organization, right? Must be someone else’s backyard, not mine. But really, it can’t always be someone else’s backyard, which means it may very well often be the kids in our program who are assaulted, or committing the assault.

Too often the violence that youth experience, sexual or otherwise, is hidden and occurs in the context of a private, sometimes close relationship. Victims may not even fully understand that they are being violated and perpetrators may not perceive what they are doing as assault or exploitation.

Young people may assume that there is no one they can trust. No one to turn to for help. If you aren’t an adult they feel that they can trust, and they have no one else to talk to, how can they get the support they need?

We may feel more comfortable pulling the ostrich maneuver and sticking our heads in the sand. We don’t want to know what we don’t want to know and young people stay vulnerable. Will you be that trusted adult? What do you want for your kids in your programs? And, what will you do?

Safer sex?! Whoa there. Not my problem. Surely someone else, like the schools has this covered, right? Unfortunately, often, no.

So, if we don’t help our young people understand risk reduction, we’ll likely continue to have crazy high rates of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies, some of the highest among developed countries, and way beyond others with similar rates of teen sexual activity. What will you do?

So, our youth encounter sexual health related challenges regularly in their lives. They often perceive that they have no one to help them. How can you provide an example of someone who is available and who cares? You may see or hear about something that really needs to be addressed? What will you do?

You may be approached by a young person and asked for help. What will you do?

Your organization may ask you to help lead efforts to support healthy sexual development, what will you do?

Do you think sexual health is relevant to your organization and to you? Are you willing to take steps to support healthy sexual development in your organization? Will you help your organization, and the youth in it, be healthier, or will you maintain the status quo? What do you want for the kids in your programs? And what can you do?

Those are the topics for other episodes of our program. If you are ready to take the first step, check them out.

Remember, sexual health is more than sex, its big picture, its social, its emotional, its relationships, its identity, its about people and how they relate to one another, and its lifelong.

And supporting sexual health is something we can all do, better.

Sex in the CBO, you can be the difference maker! What will you do?

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