By: Kelly Stout, Transitional Specialist
The Arc CARES Program – The Arc of New Jersey
Even though they may learn differently, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are intelligent in their own way. Therefore, I believe people with disabilities have the right to learn about sex education.
For people with disabilities, there are many benefits to learning about sex education:
- Learn about the opposite sex
- Reduce vulnerability
- Protect oneself from victimization
However, some parents of children with disables do not share these same positive ideas about sex education. In the article, “Sex Education: Effort of Parent and Teacher”, some parents of children with disabilities have varying opinions regarding sex education (Kempton, 531-534).
The Criminal Justice System’s Role in Providing Sex Education to People with Disabilities:
Although this article does not focus on offenders with learning disabilities, in her article, “Young people with disabilities who sexually harm others: the role of the criminal justice within a multi-agency response”, Rachel Fyson makes the good point that professionals who work in the criminal justice system must be proactive in ensuring that offenders with learning disabilities do not inflict harm on additional victims (Fyson). I think that all staff within the criminal justice system should help all offenders with disabilities to prevent harming others.
In today’s day and age, it is more important than ever for people with disabilities to get sex education, so that they can realize a situation in which someone might use sex as a way of taking advantage of them. Dedra Hafner from The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s University Center for The Excellence on Developmental Disabilities shares this perspective. In her “SAFETY Awareness to Empowerment”, Hafner stated that without proper sex education, people with disabilities become perfect targets for victimization (Hafner, 19). For those that are interested in reading Hafner’s Safety Empowerment Manual in its entirety, the link can be found here: http://www.waisman.wisc.edu/cedd/pdfs/products/health/SAFE.pdf
Sex Education: A Way for People with Disabilities to Stay Out of The Criminal Justice System:
Although sex education has a specific purpose in high school classes, sex education could also be used to teach people with disabilities about the dangers of the criminal justice system. A person of average intelligence has the ability to view our criminal justice system in an objective manner. To such a person, the Criminal Justice System upholds the law. However, to a person with a disability, the criminal justice system would appear threatening. Therefore, sex education should be used to not only teach people with disabilities about the criminal justice system in general, but also about how to stay out of the criminal justice system altogether.
Sex Education for all: A Preventative Measure for Reducing Crime:
When I had started working for The Arc CARES Program, the first of many objectives was to create The Arc CARES Needs Assessment. The purposes of The Arc CARES Needs Assessment was to identify the gaps in service for offenders with disabilities, and then to assess the needs of those individuals. One of the gaps in service is the lack of sex education that is offered to people with disabilities. If sex education can be taught to more people with disabilities and people with mental illness, there would be fewer of such offenders.
Sex Education for people with Mental Illness:
As I consider the diverse group of professionals on The Arc CARES taskforce, I consider offenders who struggle with Mental Illness, and how they would benefit from learning about sex education. While they most likely learn similar things as people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, people with mental illness, when learning about sex education, learn how to differentiate between their fantasies regarding sex and its actual reality.
Working for The Arc CARES Program, A Wonderful and Thrilling Opportunity:
From working for The Arc CARES Program and with The Criminal Justice Advocacy Program, I have learned a great deal about the repercussions of withholding sex education from people with disabilities. Working for The Arc CARES Program, and with The Criminal Justice Advocacy Program, I have a full appreciation for sex education in all special education classes.
I am so thankful and grateful to The New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities for the wonderful opportunity to work for The Arc CARES Program. To have gained and acquired this work experience is truly an opportunity of a life-time. It has been my pleasure working with NJCDD Deputy Director, Shirla Simpson, NJCDD Grant Manager, Dolores Roselli, CJAP Director, Jessica Oppenheim, Esq., and The Arc CARES taskforce Members.
Before our grant concludes on October 30th of this year, The Arc CARES Program is hosting two training workshops for direct care providers. The purpose of these workshops is to educate direct care providers on how to work with offenders who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The first workshop will be held on Tuesday, June 23rd at The Arc of Atlantic County from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. The second workshop will be held at The Camden County Voorhees Library from 10:00 A.M. 3:30 P.M. The Arc CARES Program has hired Dr. Beverly Frantz from The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University as our Training Consultant for these two training workshops. We thank Dr. Frantz, The Director of The Arc of Atlantic County, Patricia Jones, and The Director of The Arc of Camden, Peggy Englebert for all of their support with these training workshops.
- Kempton. “Sex Education: Effort of Parent and Teacher” Pages 531-534.
- Hafner, Dedra. “SAFETY Awareness to Empowerment”. http://www.waisman.wisc.edu/cedd/pdfs/products/health/SAFE.pdf.
- Fyson, Rachel. , “Young people with disabilities who sexually harm others: the role of the criminal justice within a multi-agency response”.