Discussions on consent to be mandatory in Illinois sex ed classes starting in January

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CHICAGO — Every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. RAINN also says that 8 out of 10 rapes committed are by someone the victim knows.

Those two statistics are two reasons Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a new bill into law that tackles the definition of consensual sex.

The governor is ensuring that when sex education is taught in the classroom, the curriculum has a more than just anatomy included. Sex education will now include a mandatory discussion on consent.

Social activism including online, in communities and the #MeToo movement, have been putting pressure on politicians to address consent. Illinois now mandates kids in grades 6 through 12 to have an age appropriate discussion in school on the meaning of sexual consent.

Lee Dal Pra is a child therapist and teaches at the University of Chicago. She’s also the co-founder of Mind Chicago, which includes child and family therapy testing. She counsels children on everything from mood disorders to bullying and everything in between. During these tender middle school and high school years, Dal Pra said kids’ decision-making skills are still developing, and this is the right time to tackle the touchy subject.

“It’s a sensitive topic,” she said. “Some people are going to feel really strongly, others are going to be excited, others are going to be overwhelmed that this is in the schools, and that’s OK, everyone’s feelings are valid. We have to work together to figure out how we're going to empower and give education to young people so they can be safe and keep other's safe.”

The sex education discussion will cover consent from numerous angles. Here are just a few:

  • Consent to one sexual activity does not cover other sex acts.
  • A person’s manner of dress does not constitute sexual consent.
  • Past consent does not provide for future consent.
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time. A reminder that “no means, no” anytime and all the time.

HB3550 was signed Monday and goes into effect January 2020.

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