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Victim services organization praises expansion of sexual assault education

Several educational pamphlets lie on a conference room table at Our SAFE Place. The organization assists victims of of domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking. (Megan Sanchez/KRCG 13)

The Missouri Legislature passed a bill requiring school districts that teach sex education to include information about sexual violence, sexual harassment and consent.

House Bill 1606 can become law either through the governor's signature or his inaction.

Jeannie Schmidt works regularly with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault at Our SAFE Place in Mexico, Missouri. She said because of the lack of education, several victims come to the organization not knowing what has happened to them.

"We have a lot of teenage girls who come in and don't know whether or not they were raped or sexually assaulted because they just are so confused about all of those topics," she said. "There needs to be a lot of education about appropriateness, how to handle romantic relationships."

She said sexual assault education is often taught on college campuses, but said it needs to be taught much earlier.

"College is most definitely too late," she said.

"We need to be educating young people while they still have the benefit of guidance at home and at school."

Schmidt said children tend to use pornography as their method of education, which is not a good tool. She said 90 percent of child sexual assaults go completely unreported, but she believes education can lower that number.

"Until we can start teaching our young people the meaning of consent and the importance of consent they're going to continue to make the same mistakes they've been making in terms of having sex without consent," she said.

"If we don't start having these conversations on a very regular basis at younger ages, the problem is only going to continue to be worse."

Schmidt also explained consent can be taught as young as pre-school in regards to friends and family relationships - not romantic ones. She said teaching children about body safety at a young age can help start the conversation on consent sooner.

This can be applied when relatives or strangers at the grocery store want to hug a child or have them sit on their lap. Schmidt said it is important to teach children they can say 'no' to these gestures.

"We indoctrinate them to appease other people and to be polite at their own cost," she said.

Our SAFE Place helps people who are victims of domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking. The organization has a crisis hotline, emergency shelter, transitional living program and offers other support to victims. Our SAFE Place serves Audrain County, Callaway County, Randolph County, Monroe County, Montgomery County and the northeast corner of Boone County.

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