October 28, 2020

Consent and Prevention

What is Consent?

Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries allows us to feel comfortable in our friendships and relationships. How do you know where the boundaries are? You ask!

Consent ensures everyone is on the same page about what they want to happen. It is a proactive expression of what everyone is comfortable with instead of a reactive measure to what is already happening. Consent is more of a conversation about the decision-making behind actions than focused on the actions themselves.

Consent also involves respecting the other person’s wishes. If they say “no” or even if they said “yes” initially, but are now saying “no,” we do not have consent and must respect their personal boundaries. Nobody is obligated to give consent, even if they have in the past. “It’s important for all partners in a relationship to feel comfortable with what’s happening, every time it happens” loveisrespect.org.

Age-Appropriate Comprehensive Sexual Health Education

No one is too old or too young to think about what healthy relationships look like and feel like.

“Violent behavior often begins between 6th and 12th grade. Seventy-two percent of 13 and 14-year-olds are “‘dating'” (DoSomething.org). It has also been found that 1 in 10 high school students have experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the last year.

Understanding consent and bodily autonomy are two important parts of the conversation. Bodily autonomy refers to the inherent right for a person to govern what happens to their body. For young children, this could mean discussing what being a good friend looks like. Later this conversation could shift into how the youth would want a dating partner to treat them. In the teen years and beyond, questions may become about respect in relationships, treatment of partners, and healthy disagreements. For more conversation starters with youth, check out these Conversation Cards developed by Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV).

This kind of comprehensive education helps teach youth to respect personal boundaries, how to ask for consent, and how to say and receive a “no.” It also gives them language, knowledge, and tools for discussing dating violence and other forms of abuse with a trusted adult.


Teens who have suffered dating abuse can experience long-term consequences like depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, violent behavior, and thoughts of suicide. “Youth who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dating violence in adolescence can lead to experiencing or perpetrating intimate partner violence and sexual violence in the future.

Studies have shown that youth who receive quality comprehensive sexual health education are less likely to partake in risky sex behavior, experience unintended pregnancy, or contract a sexually transmitted infection.

To learn more about sexual health education as a preventive strategy for dating violence, visit SIECUS.org.

Youth Resources

By: Jemma Riedel-Johnson

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