BHR 4- high school – consent

Building Healthy Relationships – High School Curriculum

Program 4


This program will introduce students ages 13-19 to ideas of consent, and to the effects of sexual violence. During the session students will learn about the impact of sexual violence not only on survivors, but also on society at large. Furthermore students will discuss the meaning of consent and how to prevent sexual assault.

As a result of this program students will:

1.       Be able to correctly identify local resources for sexual assault, rape and domestic violence. (Specifically Middle Way House’s purpose and contact info)


2.       Be able to understand the societal impact of sexual violence.

  1. Be able to become familiar with concepts such as consent, sexual safety and mutuality.


Presenter Preparation:

1.     Gallery walk posters

2.     “Sexual Assault Prevention” poster

3.     “Consent” handouts

4.     Blank papers for anonymous questions

5.     Pencils or pens


 Upon arrival:

1.     Arrange seating (if possible) to facilitate discussion. All students should be able to see the presenter (e.g. semi-circle).

2.     Write on the board:

Middle Way House

(812) 336-0846 24/7 crisis line




·         Introduce yourself personally. Explain briefly what your role is at the MWH/Rise.

·         If an OSA is available they should introduce themselves, and explain their role. Explain that some of the information we will discuss can be upsetting, and anyone should feel free to step out if uncomfortable. The OSA will follow anyone out the classroom in case they want to talk. OSAs should assure confidentiality.




·         Ask by show of hands how may students have heard of the Middle Way House. Ask those who raised their hands to share what they know.

·         Explain that MWH is a non-profit organization committed to fighting gender violence. The Middle Way House encompasses a number of services:

       An emergency shelter for women and children who need a safe place to stay because of violence at home.

       A rape crisis center with trained advocates that meet people that have experienced sexual assault at the hospital and on scene (if the perpetrator has been arrested). The advocates also are available for phone support. The advocates are available 24/7. This service is available to all genders.

       A crisis line available 24/7 for people to receive support, ask questions, receive resources regarding relationships, domestic violence and sexual assault. Indicate the number on the board and explain the free, anonymous, confidential concepts. This service is available to all genders.

       Rise transitional housing. For women and children that have experience domestic violence. It is a 28 unit building where families can reside for up to two years.

       Free legal consultation e.g. help filing for protective orders or divorce. Legal advocates also accompany survivors to court.

       Education and prevention programs like the one we are presenting today.


·         Ground Rules


Ask the class what kind of ground rules they would like to have for our discussion. We want it to be a safe place for people to voice their opinions and learn from each other.

If they have not said it already, add:

       Agree to disagree.

We may have strong opinions, and it is ok for people to disagree.



What is said in the room stays in the room


·         Why are we here?

We are here today to talk about the impact of sexual assault, and to discuss ides of consent and sexual safety. We are not here to say if you should be in romantic relationships or having sex. We are here to provide information and have a discussion. You will have a chance to ask us an anonymous question at the end of the program. Please feel free to ask questions at any time.


Presenter Instructions: hang posters in classroom (or write on board). 

Each sheet has a different heading:


Break students up into groups of four or five.  Student groups will rotate around the room, adding their thoughts to each poster.

Explain:  The gallery walk is a way to see everyone in the group’s thoughts and ideas on how sexual assault affects different people.  Each group will make their way to the five pieces of paper with different concepts written on the top.  Please answer the question or add to the statement.  There are no “right” answers.  Please do no mark out any answers made by other people, even if you do not agree with them.  If previous groups have written something you do agree with, place a check mark next to that item.  This activity will help us to gain a clearer perspective on sexual assault.

Presenter Notes:  This should take 5-10 minutes, depending upon the size of the group.  It is important to allow students maximum autonomy while they do this.  If students are stuck, ask them open ended questions.

Open Ended Question Suggestions:


How is someone physically affected by being assaulted?




What effect does sexual assault have on family members or friends of the victim?

On family members or friends of the perpetrator?


How does sexual violence affect communities socially?


What about financially?



What effects does sexual assault have on the perpetrator?


How will their lives change?

How can you help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?

How should a person who has been sexually assaulted be treated?


How should a person who has sexually assaulted someone be treated?


What are ways bystanders can intervene?


 process gallery walk and discuss sexual assault


Use each piece of paper to address different aspects of sexual assault.


Starting with “Survivor”, and go through each sheet.



Read the students’ writing and share information:


·         Sexual assault can be a very traumatic and hard event in someone’s life. Its effects are both short term and long term.  For the victim these include low self esteem, fewer friends, depression, physical health problems, and absence from school leading to lower grades, nightmares, embarrassment, and fear of going to school or work.

·         About one third of rape victims develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms include fear, trouble sleeping, panic attacks, flashbacks, depression, anger, difficulty remembering things.

·         Medical and physical costs to the victim include physical injury, pregnancy, and STDs. Female rape victims go to the doctor twice as often as women who have not been raped (Center for Disease Control).



Read the students’ writing and share information:


·         Family and friends can experience similar trauma as the victim. They might experience denial, anger, and a feeling of helplessness. Their relationship with the survivor might suffer.



Read the students’ writing and share information:


·         Violence is a huge cost to society, both emotionally and financially.  Some examples of social costs are a general decreased sense of safety and trust. Financial costs include trial fees (about $25.000 to 100.000 per trial in the U.S.) and prison costs ($ 15.000 to 60.000 to keep one inmate in prison for a year).



Read the students’ writing and share information:


·         Perpetrators of sexual assault also suffer from negative consequences.  These include loss of friends, loss of popularity, and criminal or legal problems.  Sexual assault is a serious felony crime that can result in prison time, a fee or settlement paid to the victim, expulsion from school, and loss of a job.

How can you help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?:

Read the students’ writing and share information:

·         Reaching out to the person who was sexually assaulted can help end sexual abuse.  Support them by asking how they are and giving them a chance to talk.  Let them know that it’s not their fault!  Respect their choices during their healing process. People have different ways to cope with trauma.

·         Tell students:  If you know someone who is or has been sexually assaulted, the two most important things you can tell her or him are “It’s not your fault” and “I believe you.”

·         Ask students:  Why do you think this is such an important thing to say?

Explain:  A person who is being or has been sexually abused may have been told that the abuse was her or his own fault, by her or his abuser, or by friends and family.  She or he may have heard this so often, that she or he has come to believe this is true.  Furthermore, he or she may have told someone in the past and not been believed, or may just be afraid that she or he won’t be believed.  This belief of personal fault or fear of not being believed might be a barrier to seeking help.


·         Let students know that the best way to deal with sexual assault is to address it.  Bystanders can make a difference. 

·         Ask students how they could be a bystander if someone they know was being sexually abused. Discuss what is important to remember when being a bystander: staying safe, feeling comfortable, weighing the pros and cons.  Letting a sexual abuser know that what they are doing isn’t cool or popular helps end sexual abuse.  If you feel comfortable, ask the perpetrator to stop.  No one deserves to be sexually abused!

·         Reporting incidents of sexual assault to a trusted teacher, counselor, or school official helps stop sexual abuse



Explain to students that we will be brainstorming in small groups (3/4 people) risk factors for date or acquaintance sexual assault.  Ask them to write risk factors for victimization (factors that make a person more vulnerable to being assaulted) on one side of a piece of paper, and perpetration (factors that make a person more likely to assault) on the other. Walk around the room and ask if anyone needs help.


Have students share their list, and write their responses on blackboard or paper. Then read and explain the “sexual assault prevention” poster:

You are at a higher risk for sexual assault if you:

·         Can’t talk to your partner (about sex and other things)

·         Make decisions about sex because of peer pressure

·         Have relationships that are unequal

·         Drink or take drugs

·         Are unable to say “no”

·         Haven’t thought of what you want in a relationships

You are at a higher risk of perpetrating sexual assault if you:

·         Can’t talk to your partner (about sex and other things)

·         Make decisions about sex because of peer pressure

·         Have relationships that are unequal

·         Drink or take drugs

·         When others say “no” you keep trying because you think they might mean “yes” or “maybe”

·         You haven’t talked with your partner about what you both want in a relationship


Starting with the first column, ask students to give examples for each item, or to explain why they are important. Supply them with examples of your own if necessary;

You are at a higher risk for sexual assault if you:

Can’t talk to your partner (about sex and other things)

·         You are afraid of what your partner might think/say if you openly talk to them.

·         Your partner ridicules/talks down to you/ gets angry when you try talking to them.

Communication is at the foundation of equal, healthy relationships. Communication enables you share your thoughts and needs.

Make decisions about sex because of peer pressure

·         Your friends make fun of you for being a prude, or for not having had sex yet.

·         Your friends or partner pressure you to be in situations where you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

You have the right to set limits for yourself and have your partner and friends respect them. Pay attention to what’s happening around you and trust your feelings. If you find yourself thinking, “I hope nothing will happen”, then it is likely you are in an unsafe situation and should get out.

Have relationships that are unequal

·         Your partner doesn’t make you feel safe.

·         Your partner doesn’t take your needs seriously, and pressures you to do things you would not do otherwise.

Unequal relationships are characterized by one person wanting power and control over their partner. Sexual assault can be a way to control someone or to have power over him or her.

Drink or take drugs

Alcohol and other drugs can escalate the frequency and severity of abuse, and can also be used as an excuse to justify the abuser’s use of violence. Alcohol and other drugs do not cause sexual assault, what causes it is the choice of a person to rape, or use sexual violence as a mean of control and degradation.

In addition, being intoxicated prevents you form being able to consent to sexual activities, and makes you more vulnerable. Note that some victims may use alcohol or other drugs as a way to cope with being assaulted.

Are unable to say “no”

·         You are afraid you will lose your partner if you say no to sex.

·         Your partner pressures/ coerces/ threatens you into having sex.

Tell someone that is making you uncomfortable that he/she needs to stop. Don’t make excuses for what is happening. Respond assertively.

Haven’t thought of what you want in a relationships

·         You don’t feel ready to make decisions about sex, or have not given it much thought.

You should be able to have all the time you need to make decisions about your sexual life. You know what’s best for your happiness and well-being.

You are at a higher risk of perpetrating sexual assault if you:

Can’t talk to your partner (about sex and other things)

·         You tend to not take your partner seriously, or to believe what they tell you.

Listening to your partner and respecting their opinions is fundamental to a healthy relationship based on equality.

Make decisions about sex because of peer pressure

·         Your friends are sexually aggressive and make sexist jokes.

·         Your peers have stereotypical notions of what it means to be a man/woman.

Know your limits. Be aware of how peer pressure might change your decisions about your limits. Speak up when your friends are sexually aggressive.

Have relationships that are unequal

·         You consider the needs of you partner’s secondary.

·         You pressure, threaten, or coerce to get what you want in the relationship.

Don’t assume that you always have to get what you want, or that your needs and desires are more important than your partner’s.

Drink or take drugs

The willingness to sexually assault is a choice made by the perpetrator. Drugs can be an excuse to avoid putting responsibility where it belongs: on the abuser. Note that alcohol and other drugs can escalate abuse.

When others say “no” you keep trying because you think they might mean “yes” or “maybe”

Understand that “no” means “no”. Believe in another person’s right to say “no” and accept it. If you are unsure, ask instead of making assumptions. Never force others to have sex or do anything else they don’t want to do.

You haven’t talked with your partner about what you both want in a relationship

·         You assume that what you want is the same as your partner’s.

·         You don’t consider what your partner wants/needs as important as what you want/need.

Being able to communicate about sex, and what both people want or need is vital for a consensual and mutual sexual relationship.




Ask students:  Can you think of a time when you or someone you have known did something you or he or she didn’t really want to do?

Presenter Instructions:  If you have a personal example, use it.  You may also use an example from a movie or a TV show.  Ask students for their examples.  Jot a few key ideas from each example on the board.

Inform the group that sometimes a person agrees to do something they don’t want to do in a sexual relationship for a variety of reasons.  Note that informed, mutual consent is the only way to insure that both partners agree with the behaviors in which they are engaging.


 activity:  how do you know if you have mutual consent?


Presenter Instructions:  Ask students to help brainstorm ways you know if someone is consenting.

Examples of Not Having Mutual Consent

Turning away/ trying to leave

Going numb

Saying No

Saying I’m not sure or I don’t know




Examples of Mutual Consent

Smiling, Nodding

Saying Yes

Staying physically close to the person

Both people are not afraid—no coercion














 Ask Students:  What can you do if you aren’t sure?  Answer:  Ask!  Ask!  Ask!  Ask the person if she or he

consents to the activity.  If you can’t get a clear answer, stop being sexual.


REMEMBER:  Talking someone into doing something is not consent, it’s coercion.


Pass out blank pieces of paper. Ask students to write a question or comment on the piece of paper. Instruct students to NOT write their names on the piece of paper. Be sure everyone turns in a piece of paper even if they do not have a question to ensure the questions remain anonymous. Answer the questions in class. If you don’t have enough time, tell them you will send answers to the school. 

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