Formal Sex Education on Consent, Sexual Assault, and IPV: An Evaluation of Students' Experiences and Subsequent Attitudes/Behaviors
This item will be available on: 2023-07-01
Given the high rates of sexual assault (SA) and intimate partner violence (IPV) in adolescence and young adulthood, it is critical to understand potential points of intervention to reduce victimization and perpetration risk. Formal sex education programming delivered in school represents one of the earliest potential sources from which youth receive formal education related to healthy relationships and sexual behavior. However, few research studies have evaluated the impact of formal sex education on SA and IPV risk. Thus, the present study examined the relation between perceived helpfulness of formal sex education on consent, sexual assault, and IPV and sexual assault and IPV victimization/perpetration risk among a sample of 343 first-year college students. All students received formal sex education in a public school in North Carolina, which mandates sex education include coverage of consent, sexual violence, and healthy relationships. Participants were recruited from a research participation subject pool of a large NC university, and completed an online survey regarding the topics that were covered in their formal public school sex education, perceived helpfulness of sex education received on consent, SA, and IPV, and their personal SA and IPV victimization and perpetration history. Participants were also asked open-ended questions about how consent, SA, and IPV was covered in their formal sex education as well as what information they wish had been taught or covered. The majority of participants recalled receiving education on consent (78.4%), sexual assault (62.4%), and healthy relationships (75.8%). Overall, participants varied in their ratings of the helpfulness of their sex education on these topics with the mean ratings for all areas of sex education at or near the scale midpoint. Further, in their open-ended responses participants frequently described their sex education instruction as vague or awkward, with instructors glossing over the nuances of consent or the many behaviors that constitute sexual assault (other than rape). Participants expressed that the programming would have benefitted from the inclusion of scenarios, discussion of factors such as alcohol use and peer pressure, and the inclusion of information about how to get help for SA/IPV and how to leave an abusive relationship. Quantitative results supported that sex education helpfulness ratings significantly predicted SA and IPV victimization risk, such that lower helpfulness ratings were associated with increased risk of SA and physical IPV. However, perceived helpfulness of sex education was unrelated to SA perpetration. Findings provided preliminary support for the potential impact of formal sex education on consent, sexual assault, and IPV/healthy relationships on some violence victimization and perpetration outcomes. Implications of the findings on how to improve the delivery of formal sex education in schools to effectively reduce SA and IPV are discussed.
Muscari, Emma. (June 2021). Formal Sex Education on Consent, Sexual Assault, and IPV: An Evaluation of Students' Experiences and Subsequent Attitudes/Behaviors (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/9419.)
Muscari, Emma. Formal Sex Education on Consent, Sexual Assault, and IPV: An Evaluation of Students' Experiences and Subsequent Attitudes/Behaviors. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, June 2021. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/9419. August 12, 2022.
Muscari, Emma, “Formal Sex Education on Consent, Sexual Assault, and IPV: An Evaluation of Students' Experiences and Subsequent Attitudes/Behaviors” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, June 2021).
Muscari, Emma. Formal Sex Education on Consent, Sexual Assault, and IPV: An Evaluation of Students' Experiences and Subsequent Attitudes/Behaviors [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; June 2021.
East Carolina University