Kaitlyn Chin. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Chin.

I’m a freshman at the University of Washington, and should be filled with hope and joy to be at this stage in my life. Unfortunately, and not because of COVID-19, I am coping with overcoming emotional and social trauma resulting from sexual abuse I was victim to when I was a freshman in high school.

The assault affected my school life, and continues to affect my whole life. And the worst part? My experience, and the countless other sexual abuse experiences of young people, could have been prevented. Studies show that states with comprehensive mandatory sex education have lowered incidents of sexual abuse, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted disease. Here in Washington, many schools opt out of teaching sex education. As a recent high school graduate, the curriculum is still fresh in my mind, or should I say the lack thereof. The classes I received taught me what sex was, they taught me how scary the diseases could be, but mostly, they convinced me that sex was shameful and risky.

This could probably be easily looked over, as many people believe that teenagers shouldn’t have sex so why would we teach them how to do it safely and with consent? An important thing to note is that teenagers will have sex regardless of if their parents or teachers tell them not to. They will have sex whether or not they have the tools to do safely. They will learn about sex in other ways. No one wants to be the teen who has to tell their classmates they got an STD, no one wants to be the girl who is forced to choose between getting an education and caring for an infant, but sexual relationships during youth do happen and we need to teach students how to do so safely, if they choose to.

Teaching only about body parts and not about healthy relationships, boundaries, and emotions is not treating kids as human beings. Sex does not just involve two body parts, it involves two human beings. So why do we act like the emotions involved with sex can be inferred? We’ve all heard the word, “consent”, but do children really know what it means? Because like all other concepts in life, it needs to be taught, but too many kids haven’t had the opportunity to learn this because the lack of comprehensive sex education.

If we taught everyone the concept of consent, we could save countless lives. If not that, we could save many from the hardship and trauma that comes with sexual abuse, assault, and rape. I know that it would have saved me. My freshman year of high school, my best friend’s brother sexually assaulted me. This event shaped my high school for experience, for the worse. I am still coping with overcoming the trauma and shame that this event left me with. More sex education could have given me the knowledge and the tools to prevent this hideous event. It could have taught my classmates what they could’ve done to protect me as bystanders. Instead I, and so many others, have been victims and are still struggling with how to overcome the gut-wrenching feeling of being touched when I said no.

The saddest part is my story is not unique. Countless people of all ages are being abused and assaulted. But imagine a world where everyone was taught consent. Imagine a culture in which stories like mine were not the norm. Imagine a community in which we could build healthy relationships, sexual or not, and not be shamed for it. Sex education should also be inclusive and accessible to of all types of people. The new sex education guidelines proposed by our state would give kids the tools they need to live safe and healthy lives. This measure is up for a vote on our ballots this election. And as a first time voter, I will be voting to Approve Referendum 90. Kids at risk like I was can’t wait for information and tools to prevent abuse and assault and to find and talk to a trusted adult. This is what Referendum 90 would bring to our communities.

Kaitlyn Chin lives in Renton and is currently a freshman at the University of Washington.

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