The Sooner the Better

The Sooner the Better: The Impact of Early Exposure to Abuse Prevention on High School Sexual Assault Education, by Brenda Arsenault

ABSTRACT:  How do we raise teens’ understanding of the realities of sexual assault and rape myths?  Based on one rape crisis center’s education program, the answer is to start educating about abuse at an early age.  Over 20,000 high school students each year are presented with the Acquaintance Rape program by the YWCA West Suburban Center, but only a portion of these students receive any abuse prevention in the K-8 grades where these facilitators would address topics like appropriate and inappropriate touch, bullying, sexual harassment, and healthy relationships.

The presenters wanted to see how much knowledge was being gained from their Acquaintance Rape program, and if the students who they had spoken with in the younger grades understood the concepts of consent, coercion, or how to respond to a friend’s assault better than the students without exposure to their K-8 programs. This was measured through tests administered one week before the presentation, one week after, and then again one month later.

All students’ scores increased after the presentation, however, those students who had received prevention education in early grades had even higher scores on the initial pre-test and scored better on the post-test. This suggests that exposure to abuse education at the elementary grades results in a better knowledge base of the subject and that the material is received and retained at a higher rate. This information is valuable for conversations with school districts and parents on the importance of increasing programs at the elementary level.