Consent is the backbone of healthy relationships, no matter the length of the relationship. In Illinois, lawmakers sought to make this a foundational hallmark of sex education for students in 6th to 12th grade. While the change is really an amendment to an existing law that covered sex education in Illinois, the change is drastic. Now, alongside requirements that sex education teaches students how to use contraceptives alongside abstinence and about the perils of STIs, teachers in Illinois are now required to teach their students the importance of consent, what consent looks like, when consent can be revoked, and when consent cannot be given.
The law requires that students be taught in an age-appropriate manner, meaning that the conversation around consent becomes more robust as students age. Laura Kowalske, the Director of Prevention Education at the Center for Prevention of Abuse, where children are taught about consent as early as preschool, said “We’re talking to the littles, we’re talking really about how do you share your body in a way that feels good to you. And that you have the right to decide how you wish to share your body. And so we start the conversation there.”
The new bill details exactly what aspects of consent are now a legal requirement. The bill states that course material and instruction must be age-appropriate and cover the following topics:
(1) that consent is a freely given agreement;
(2) that consenting to one particular sexual activity is not consent to another sexual activity;
(3) that a lack of resistance or that submission to threats is not consent;
(4) that how a person dresses is not consent;
(5) that consent to past sexual activity is not consent for future sexual activity;
(6) that consent to sexual activity with one person is not consent for another person.;
(7) that consent can be withdrawn at any time;
(8) that a person cannot give consent if they don’t understand what they’re consenting to, or if they’re intoxicated, asleep, a minor, or incapacitated due to a mental disability. This is not an exhaustive list, the bill says.
You can find the full text of the bill here.
This change in curriculum at a state level is important, Kowalske says. And according to Lauren’s Kids, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Starting an education program about consent in 6th grade matters all the more given that RAINN reports that 66% of those victims are between the ages of 12 and 17.
The Center for Prevention of Abuse has a crisis hotline at 1 (800) 559-7233. You can donate to CBA here.
RAINN provides a sexual assault support hotline at 1 (800) 656-4673 that routes callers to local organizations that can help. You can donate to RAINN here.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a CyberTipline for reporting suspected child sexual exploitation. You can donate to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children here.
If you need to speak to an attorney regarding the safety of your child, call Kiswani Law to discuss your options.