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The YWCA of York is making efforts to educate students on preventing adolescent relationship and sexual abuse through several educational programs in area school districts.

The organization’s Primary Education Program has a prevention advocate from the YWCA enter the classroom and teach students in kindergarten through 12th grade age-appropriate lessons on relationships, sex and assault.

“We recognize that it’s a problem,” said Jessica Castle, community education director for the York YWCA.

She said many have been reluctant to speak about the issue, and the Primary Education Program hopes to open the necessary discussion and prevent incidents from happening.

At risk: Many students are at risk of falling into dangerous or potentially abusive relationships, Castle said, adding, “So many teens don’t have a view of what a positive relationship looks like."

Depending on the age group, the YWCA’s program can advise students on the issues that may most affect their relationships.

For the very young, the program focuses on having children know what is a safe and unsafe touch from someone. The program gets more into “healthy boundaries” for elementary school students, including teaching them proper conflict resolution techniques.

For middle school and high school, the conversation shifts to dating and sex. The lesson, called “safe dates,” aims to target negative attitudes and behaviors in dating and relationships.

Consent: Presentations regarding sex are complex, but Castle said the program representative makes sure to drive home the issue of consent.

“There’s a lot of confusion as to what consent means,” she said. From the perspective of the York YWCA, anything but explicit permission throughout does not cover the standard of a consensual sexual relationship.

“The absence of yes means no,” Castle said.

While sex is an important component, she said the level of respect in a relationship can have lasting effects on young people.

“Everybody wants to be in a respectful relationship,” Castle said, so the YWCA has implemented “Expect Respect” as part of its curriculum.

The lesson encourages students to know their worth and sense of dignity, Castle said.

“They should feel deserving of respect,” she said, “not sacrificing their own needs for their partner.”

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