Alignment Nashville held its second annual Adolescent Sexual Responsibility Conference Wednesday, July 11, 2012, and local parents, school administrators, university counselors, and therapists gathered at the daylong conference to discuss sexual health. Sessions and panels were held to provide insight into HIV and pregnancy prevention, life planning for young women, sexual assault prevention, finding and building community resources and more. Through our partnership with Nashville Public Television and their efforts through NPT Reports and NPT Reports: Children’s Health Crisis, I was fortunate to facilitate one of the lunchtime screening discussions where the Children’s Health Crisis: Sexuality video was shown.
In the documentary, there are staggering statistics around student sexuality, rates of sexually transmitted infections among teens and young adults, and information on how students learn or find out about sex. I met with a small group of local parents and Vanderbilt University therapists and social workers to learn about their experiences and initiate the discussion around how the community can have a positive impact on teen sexuality. The thoughts and mentions reflected below are from the conversation.
- When asked about hopes and expectations for Nashville teens around issues of sexual responsibility, the responses were clear. Citizens and community members hope and anticipate for teens to be responsible when it comes to sex, to have healthy relationships, to know how one can get pregnant or contract an STI and to take necessary precautions. In Tennessee, 66 percent of all high school seniors have had sexual intercourse, and 24 percent have had four or more sexual partners. In addition, contraceptive use in the United States is lower than in other countries around the world.
- There are various reasons for sexual irresponsibility among teens, and as the Children’s Health Crisis: Sexuality documentary states, many students learn about sex from television, other friends or pornography. Adolescents spend an average of seven hours a day in media including television, the internet and social media.
- Teen pregnancy rates in Tennessee have decreased in the last 40 years, and some were and weren’t surprised by those findings.
- According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the rates of sexually transmitted infections continues to rise among teenagers, and the department sees nearly 300,000 samples for testing a year.
- The attendees did not feel that young people were getting the education they needed around sexuality, sexual health and sexual responsibility, but all of the members said they did not feel they were any better informed about sex when they were younger.
- The group felt that it was, first and foremost, the responsibility of parents to educate young people about sex and sexual responsibility, but they also knew the reality of the situation and said they would be alright with allowing others (teachers, local community members, organizations) to educate their children on sexual responsibility.
- There are a number of ways this issue impacts each individual and the community as a whole including economically, the high death rates of babies born to teenage girls, lack of knowledge and more.
It was understood and agreed that students needed to know more about their sexual health and healthy relationships, and that is just what Nashville Alliance hoped to get started. Through the implementation of community discussion groups and conferences in addition to documentaries and resources, they hope that individuals will be less likely to wait on others to make an impact and a positive difference in their communities.