Trauma-informed sexuality education: recognising the rights and resilience of youthedit
Experiences of maltreatment during childhood and the emergence of sexuality during adolescence are both critical developmental issues that intersect in meaningful ways, yet the two are often isolated from each other in practice. Despite the prevalence of childhood maltreatment, sexuality education does not accommodate young people with trauma histories. This results in curricula and content that ignore the particular needs and experiences of a proportion of students in sexuality education classrooms. Trauma interventions commit a similar oversight by neglecting the prospects for positive, growth-promoting sexual experiences and relationships among young people who have been abused. The failure to account for young people’s resilience in the sexual domain results in treatment approaches that emphasise sexual risks (e.g. revictimisation) and problem behaviours to the exclusion of guidance in cultivating positive sexualities. Consequently, many forms of sexuality education and maltreatment interventions may be of limited effectiveness and relevance in promoting the future sexual well-being of young people with histories of trauma. To redress this gap, we advocate for trauma-informed sexuality education, an approach that acknowledges past experiences of abuse, the promise of resilience, and young people’s right to positive sexualities.