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SAHM Issues a Position Paper Regarding Sexual Consent Principles

SAHM Issues a Position Paper Regarding Sexual Consent Principles

Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine Logo

Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine Logo

The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) has released its position paper regarding the promotion of sexual consent principles in the sexual and reproductive health care of adolescents and young adults. The paper, published online on May 6, in the Journal of Adolescent Health, was based on a comprehensive review of the international scientific literature published in English, reports and technical guidance from national and international organizations, and consensus opinions among the members of interprofessional SAHM review team.

Data from the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of U.S. high school students reveal approximately 14% of females and 4% of males have experienced non-consensual sexual activity. In this position paper, SAHM maintains that "The ability to communicate with a partner about any physical/sexual contact, including kissing, touching, or sexual intercourse, is necessary for a mutually respectful relationship."

As such, SAHM policy positions are as follows:

  1. Healthcare providers (HCPs) need to ensure all adolescents, young adults and the general public fully comprehend, value and implement sexual consent principles.
  2. Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education programs, informed by evidence-based research, should include elements that increase adolescents' and young adults'‎ (AYAs) ‎ability to successfully implement sexual consent principles.‎
  3. HCPs and educators should discuss sexual consent as an integral component of healthy sexual ‎relationships, especially with marginalized and vulnerable AYAs.‎
  4. HCPs who work with AYAs need to routinely assess for the possible occurrence of ‎non-consensual sexual contact and directly provide or connect them to support ‎services for victims of sexual violence.  ‎
  5. All HCPs and educators need to be cognizant of the multiple legal aspects of sexual ‎consent for their geographic area.‎
  6. HCPs need to educate the public about the importance of discussing sexual consent ‎with youth and advocate for AYAs who report non-consensual sexual contact to ‎prevent further sexual violence and promote healing and recovery.‎
  7. Infrastructure support by professional organizations, and hospital and insurance ‎systems need to be in place to ensure HCPs have the training, skills, and time to ‎counsel AYAs on sexual consent principles.‎
  8. Additional research needs to be conducted to increase evidence-based practices to ‎prevent the occurrence of non-consensual sexual contact among AYAs and on the ‎effective dissemination and implementation of best practices.‎

May Lau, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and lead author of the position paper, emphasizes sexual consent as an integral part of healthy relationships. She states, "Healthcare clinicians who work with youth need to routinely discuss concepts of sexual consent and assist youth who have experienced non-consensual sexual conduct." 

SAHM maintains that continuing the efforts to address the root cause of sexual violence, oppression and power imbalances are imperative so that individuals feel comfortable taking charge of their sexual health and consenting to sexual contact without consequence.  

The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM), founded in 1968, is a nonprofit multidisciplinary professional society committed to the promotion of health, well-being and equity for all adolescents and young adults by supporting adolescent health and medicine professionals through the advancement of clinical practice, care delivery, research, advocacy, and professional development. Through education, research, clinical services, and advocacy activities, SAHM enhances public and professional awareness of adolescent health issues among families, educators, policymakers, youth-serving organizations, students in the field as well as other health professionals around the world. 

Contact Information:
Philip Waitzman
Executive Director
[email protected]

Original Source: SAHM Issues a Position Paper Regarding Sexual Consent Principles