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Freedom from Sexual Violence

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CCASA Testimony on HB 19-1032 Comprehensive Sexuality Education

HB 19-1032 Comprehensive Sexuality Education testimony presented to the CO Senate Committee on Health & Human Services by CCASA Director of Policy Raana Simmons, Feb. 28, 2019:

Good afternoon Madam Chair and members of the committee: my name is Raana Simmons, I am the Director of Policy for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA), and I am here today representing the Coalition and our over 100 agency and individual members across Colorado – including a group of students from Pagosa Springs High School who join the Coalition in our support of HB 19-1032 and were thrilled to know their Senator, Senator Coram, was running this critically important bill.

According to the CDC: 42% of female victims experience their first rape before the age of 18 and more than one-quarter of male victims experience their first rape when they were 10 years of age or younger. The study also found 1 in 5 girls, ages 14-18, had been kissed or touched without her consent. Of this same demographic, 98% of the girls did not report their assaults to the police or school authorities.

Sexual assault can cause intense feelings of humiliation, denial, shame and self-doubt. Victims often feel terrified of other people learning what has been done to them; they fear they will not be believed and that they will be subjected to harassment. For young people who have experienced sexual abuse, the quality of education they receive about rape and sexual assault can make the difference in whether or not they report the crime or seek supportive services for the trauma they’ve experienced. Those who do come forward often face intense scrutiny and are met with disbelief. It is imperative, therefore, that the education survivors receive about sexual health be medically accurate and avoid shame-based and stigmatizing language. HB 19-1032 achieves this ideal by clarifying educational content requirements in law, thereby supporting a survivor’s ability to come forward and seek help.

It is not enough, however, to teach young people that rape is bad – they already know that. Instead, we must pivot our focus to help young people cultivate their own understanding of how to effectively and clearly communicate their boundaries and expectations in all of their relationships. HB 19-1032 creates the opportunity for teaching young people how to draw their own personal and emotional boundaries and have respect for others to do the same. In this way, HB 19-1032 centers comprehensive sexual health education as THE CORNERSTONE to actually addressing and preventing sexual violence.

It is for these reasons CCASA is urging a “yes” vote from the committee on HB 19-1032. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of this bill, I am available to answer any questions the committee may have.

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