• VPEC

Sexuality Education As a Violence Prevention Strategy for Teens

Today marks the first day of Respect Week, an important component of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.


So, we thought it was the perfect time to speak with Rebecca Breuer, a sexuality education specialist, about her strategies for teaching teens about respect.


Welcome, Rebecca! Thank you for being here.

Q. How did you get involved in the field of sexuality education? Why is sexuality education so important?


A. I was working as a high school science teacher and quickly recognized how many questions students had about sex and sexuality.


I became the go-to teacher for advice and information on all things sexual and decided to get my Master's degree in Human Sexuality.


I cannot express just how crucial sexuality education is. Your sexuality (identity, values, goals, etc.) is such a huge part of your life, and what you know (or don't know) can have serious repercussions, both good and bad. Sex ed is where so many students find their strong voice, as they learn about what they want and don't want for themselves, while respecting those with different values, beliefs, and desires.


Sex ed is where so many students find their strong voice, as they learn about what they want and don't want for themselves, while respecting those with different values, beliefs, and desires.

Q. What makes sexuality education a powerful form of violence prevention education?


A. Good sexuality education does so much to prevent a range of situations that may lead to violence. It teaches people how to truly understand the complexity of consent. Knowing that a "yes" doesn't always actually mean "yes." Learning how to pay attention to body language and what "enthusiastic" engagement looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Learning how to create healthy relationships, while recognizing the signs of unhealthy ones. Learning that no one owes you anything, whether it's liking you back or wanting to do the sexual acts you want to do or that they initially said they'd try.


Learning about LGBTQ+ issues and being a strong voice who stands up against homophobia and transphobia. Learning about sexual violence; how to stop it and how to get/give support to victims. Learning about sexual and reproductive anatomy so you have comfort with your body and agency over it. Learning about the variety of sexual acts so you can decide what you are and aren't comfortable with trying and have practice stating your boundaries before the need arises.


Comprehensive sexual education leads to a world with less violence and greater love and acceptance for one another.


Comprehensive sexual education leads to a world with less violence and greater love and acceptance for one another.

Q. What are some strategies you have for helping your students learn about healthy relationships, boundaries, and consent?


A. When I teach about healthy relationships, there is a big focus on communication. We learn about assertive, aggressive, and passive styles and how to be assertive in all aspects of life.


We analyze relationship scenarios to learn healthier ways to handle common situations and examine love languages and how to ensure everyone feels cared for. With regards to boundary setting, we spend a lot of time examining our own personal values as we cover the diversity that exists within the topics we cover.


Consent lessons are heavily focused on how to recognize if you're unknowingly creating a situation where the other person would feel pressure to do things you're wanting to do. It's about how to stop you from being the perpetrator in sexual harassment, coercion, or rape, rather than focusing on how to prevent you from being a victim.


Q. The theme of this year’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month campaign is #KnowYourWorth. What are some ways teens can learn to appreciate their own worth, and understand that they deserve to be treated with respect?


A. I always set my students up with the mantra of "I AM ENOUGH."


If we constantly compare ourselves to others, we will never measure up. There will always be others who are better looking, smarter, funnier, or more talented than you. That is okay!!! It doesn't mean that you're not amazing as you currently are!


We can be so hard on ourselves. It is crucial to learn how to silence your inner critic. If you wouldn't say it to your best friend, don't say it to yourself. When it comes to being treated with respect, if you wouldn't do it to someone you love, you don't need to let someone who claims to love you do it to you. Knowing your worth absolutely creates healthy relationships and situations.


Knowing your worth absolutely creates healthy relationships and situations.

Q. What kinds of questions do your students have about dating and dating violence? What kinds of questions do parents have?

A. My students are hungry to learn about how to create healthy relationships. They want to know if they're normal (the answer is "yes," but also that there really is no "normal!"), how to feel better about themselves and their bodies, and how to handle tough situations.


Lately, I've noticed a significant increase in the questions around how to trust your dating partner and other issues around jealousy.


It's increasingly clear how much harder social media has made it for teens to navigate healthy relationships and boundaries.


Parents tend to want to know how to be more comfortable talking about sex and sexuality with their kids. How to be the person their kids come to for help and advice. They want to know how to keep their kids safe and give them support when they're struggling.


Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?


A. I think #KnowYourWorth is such a strong, powerful statement and such a brilliant theme for this campaign. The more we can ALL know our worth, the more loving, supportive, safe, and joyous our lives become.


The more we can ALL know our worth, the more loving, supportive, safe, and joyous our lives become.

Thank you, Rebecca, for all you do.


About Rebecca:


Rebecca Breuer is a Sexuality education specialist. She currently works with high school students in California, teaching a holistic, advanced curriculum, centered on exploring personal values while remaining open-minded, respectful, and supportive of others. Rebecca has over 12 years of teaching experience and is passionate about helping folks with being comfortable with talking about all aspects of human sexuality and loving the diversity that exists. She also helps individuals with issues of health and wellness, as a fitness instructor and coach, with a focus on disordered eating and body image.

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