As individual activists and organizations striving to change culture, it is critical that we challenge ourselves to expand our work to outer layers of the Social-Ecological Model (SEM). Engaging in policy change efforts, the outermost layer of the SEM, can feel like a daunting undertaking. Fortunately, a number of resources are being developed to provide guidance and support in policy efforts. Below are twelve resources to assist with school policy change efforts, including model policies, resource websites, and policy briefs.
Website: Stop Sexual Assault in Schools
Video: Ignite Talks- Creating Change Beyond the Classroom
Web Conference: Keeping the Climate Study Data and Other Reports Off-the-Shelf
Report: Student Safety, Justice, and Support Policy Guidelines for Campuses Addressing Sexual Assault, Domestic Dating Violence, and Stalking
Model Policy: School and District Policies to Increase Student Safety and Improve School Climate
Model Policy: Idaho Model Secondary School Policy Adolescent Relationship Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
Governance Brief: Promoting Healthy Relationships for Adolescents: Board Policy Considerations
Talking Points: “Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct”
Policy Draft: “Los Angeles Unified School District Teen Dating Violence Policy Draft”
Report: Ending Harassment Now, Keeping our Kids Safe at School
Framework: Developing School Policies to Address Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking
Policy Brief: Addressing Bullying and Adolescent Dating Abuse
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) launched the “Violence Prevention Initiative” in 2015, as an effort to bring prevention to the forefront of health promotion in California. Last week, the Violence Prevention Initiative released a report on the importance of prioritizing prevention and addressing violence as a public health issue . The long-term and intergenerational impacts of sexual violence have been well-documented. As described in this report, using public health principles can advance our efforts to prevent violence from occurring:
Public health recognizes that violence is preventable and takes a primary prevention approach, working “upstream” to address underlying causes to prevent violence from happening in the first place. Public health works to: promote safe, stable, nurturing, healthy relationships and environments; address individual, interpersonal, community, and societal risk and protective factors; decrease structural violence; and, build individual and community resilience.
Follow this link to view the report.
“Bodily autonomy,” or the right to govern one’s body, is at the heart of our movement to end sexual violence. As a movement, we strive to build a revolution on the simple concept that every person has the right to control what happens to their body, free from coercion or fear. This freedom should not be limited to the ability to accept or reject sexual experiences, rather, true bodily autonomy requires that an individual can make informed decisions about involvement in any experience: sexual, medical, or otherwise.
Contraceptives and other forms of pregnancy prevention have long been housed within the medical field, making it easy to forget the early social justice roots of the birth control movement. From inception, the birth control movement was fueled by women’s desire to control their destinies and their bodies. Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger became infamous in the early 1900’s for her promotion of self-determination and female empowerment through the use of birth control methods. The idea that women would engage in sex for purposes other than reproduction contradicted social norms that informed laws that called for the imprisonment of Sanger and others who promoted medically accurate sex education.
One hundred years after Sanger founded an organization that would eventually be known as “Planned Parenthood,” access to birth control is still limited in the United States, and perhaps even more alarming, exposure to medically accurate information is still not a requirement in all schools. Why is birth control still controversial a century later? Why do we not require medically accurate information about reproduction? We know that simply educating adolescents has been associated with delayed sexual initiation and increased use of contraception. We know that exposure to this information is also correlated with a decrease in teen pregnancy and abortion. We cannot claim to be free if we cannot make decisions about when we reproduce, but we cannot make decisions about when we reproduce if we do not understand how our reproductive systems work.
Increasing access to birth control and medically accurate sex education is one of the most impactful humanitarian and economic interventions, as noted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Domestically and internationally, the benefits of providing birth control to women have been well documented:
- Increased quality of life and reduced maternal mortality rates for mothers and children of mothers who have access to contraceptives
- Increased access to career and educational opportunities
- Promoting economic growth for communities and financial stability
- Financial stability, in conjunction with addressing gender inequality, has been shown to decrease economic dependence on male partners, lowering a woman’s vulnerability to experiencing many forms of violence, including sexual and domestic violence
- Lastly, birth control has the potential to slow population growth and has been named as a tool in the battle against overpopulation
The United Nations considers contraceptive access to be a “human right.” Now more than ever, reproductive rights are under attack. Protections for birth control access are being eroded. This will disproportionately impact those who are poor or otherwise marginalized. Every young person should have the right to medically accurate information about reproduction, and thus, decisions about their futures. Failure to provide this information can severely alter the course of an individual’s life, or even prove fatal. The time to act to protect these rights is now, as birth control access is being actively threatened.
Reproductive rights organizations exist on the local, national, and international level. Suggestions for collaboration include the following:
Last week, I had the great pleasure of attending the White House Office of the Vice President’s “It’s on Us” Summit. Attended by a constellation of anti-sexual violence allies, from survivors, to elected officials, social media celebrities, and athletics officials, this event was a celebration of the progress that we have made as a movement, since the White House Task Force Protecting Students from Sexual Assault was formed three years ago. In one of his final public addresses as Vice President, Joe Biden spoke passionately about his plans to continue to serve as an ally in the field by creating an anti-sexual assault foundation.
On behalf of CALCASA, and as a survivor, #ThankYouJoe for your leadership and dedication to ending sexual assault.
To read more about the Summit and White House’s work to end sexual violence, see our blog.