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How trauma impacts teen sexual health

Rainbow in the sky with text: trauma and sexual healthIt’s been quiet here at the SAAM blog, but that’s telling of how busy our team has been, behind the scenes, working on Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2014. Speaking of 2014, can you believe we are on the doorstep of a new year? Excited as I am to share about the upcoming SAAM campaign, 2013 still has some adventures left. This week I’m attending the National Sex Ed Conference, and I am so excited to connect with partners in sexuality education and sexual health promotion. Spoiler alert: Look for a recap!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a great training on adolescent sexual health promotion offered by a local university. This training on trauma and teen sexual health was facilitated by Joann Schladale, M.S., L.M.F.T. of Resources for Resolving Violence.

Trauma has a profound influence on our lives, and a trauma-informed approached looks to address the connections between our experiences of trauma and our lives, choices and health. The purpose of this training was to understand the influence of trauma on adolescent sexual decision-making. If this sounds familiar, I wrote about the recently about Building Healthy Futures where similar themes of trauma, teens and sexual health were addressed.

Since SAAM 2014 is all about teens and healthy sexuality, it’s been tremendous to see an emphasis on the needs and lives of the teens. Suffice it to say, I totally geeked out! This four-day training was very comprehensive with a focus on skill-building and addressing comprehensive needs. Here’s a highlights reel of 5 key ideas discussed:

  1. Accurate information on sexual health is important to supporting optimal sexual decision-making, but education is not enough. Life experiences influence our values, choices and options related to sexual health.
  2. Trauma greatly impacts the developmental needs of young people and their experience of sexual health. For youth and all individuals who have experience trauma, addressing these needs is a cornerstone for healthy sexuality.
  3. Young people can learn healthy coping strategies to address the distress and disturbance of trauma. Healthy sexuality is a tool that supports both healing trauma and sexual health promotion.
  4. It’s takes a range of approaches and resources to support the needs of young people, but youth are resilient. When service providers are working to address trauma comprehensively this positively impacts teens sexual health and decision-making.
  5. To effectively engage with youth involves network of support that focuses on the needs of the young person. It does in fact take a village to support happy, healthy young people.

When I try and wrap my mind around all of the connections between promoting healthy sexuality and working to address trauma it’s apparent to me that this work is so relevant to our sexual violence prevention and intervention efforts. It’s a great cliffhanger to upcoming discussions about the National Sex Ed Conference and SAAM 2014. Stay tuned!

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