What’s the difference between Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) and Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE)?
SRA programs teach adolescents how to avoid risk. The CSE model narrowly instructs teens how to reduce risk when it comes to sexual activity by teaching forms of protection, which is why they are often referred to as sexual risk reduction programs.
Merely reducing sexual risk does not promote optimal health to that individual. By equipping young people with the skills to eliminate any current risks and avoid any future risks, sexual risk avoidance programs do promote optimal health and follow the public health model.
SRA sets young people up for success by showing them what they can achieve when they focus on their dreams and future life goals.
Does SRA work?
A common misconception is that SRA education doesn’t work because it isn’t applicable and pragmatic for the current generation, or that it's just an ineffective choice for adolescents. However, SRA is overwhelmingly more comprehensive and holistic than other approaches and focuses on the real-life struggles that teens face as they navigate through the difficult adolescent years. SRA has a positive effect for these key reasons:
It follows the Public Health Model. Public health models that respond to health risk typically emphasize optimal health promotion and disease prevention. An example of this messaging is the culture-wide anti-smoking health campaigns which encourage non-smokers not to begin smoking and urge smokers to return to a smoke-free lifestyle. Teen sex has been identified by the CDC as a risk behavior. SRA education is an approach that gives teens crucial information and skills to help them avoid all possible negative consequences of sexual activity.
The SRA model goes beyond just discussing the physical consequences, such as teen pregnancy and STIs/STDs. Our comprehensive approach emphasizes and connects the value of avoiding sex to key components that help adolescents thrive and succeed. We focus on not just physical health, but also emotional and relational health. The 2015 Barna Group, Americans Speak Out Survey, found that about 7 out of 10 Americans want students to learn to avoid all the consequences of teen sex, not merely pregnancy.
We see, on average, an increase of 31% of students in the classroom choosing abstinence before they hear a presentation, to 50% choosing abstinence after the presentation. Not only that, but the number of sexually active teens who choose to remain sexually active, after hearing a presentation, decreases from 12% to 4%.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, the committee of jurisdiction for sex education, commented, “When it comes to preventing high-risk behavior among teens, the evidence is clear: risk avoidance is the most effective strategy. This is true of successful public health campaigns to reduce teenage smoking, drinking, and reckless driving, and it is also true of sex education curricula.”*
* U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee. A better approach to teen pregnancy prevention: Sexual risk avoidance. (2012, July 6). Retrieved June 22, 2015 from http://energycommerce.house.gov/press-release/committee-analysis-highlights-most-effective-strategiesprevent-teenage-pregnancy
Do SRA programs promote or teach safety and about contraceptives?
Research shows the longer a person waits to have sex, the more likely they are to use protection. This data, found by the National Survey on Family Growth (NSFG)*, reveals that sexually active students are more likely to use condoms or other forms of contraception protection if they are taught how to avoid teen sex, rather than if they receive education on how to use a condom. By merely focusing on contraceptives and protection we are giving teens a false sense of security and a belief that sex is safe.
The 2015 Barna Group, Americans Speak Out Survey, found that most Americans believe it is essential for high school students to receive information on contraception (75%), but the support plummets for demonstration (38%) and distribution (27%). Most SRA programs share information, but neither demonstrate nor distribute.
SRA teaches that the primary prevention of high-risk sexual behavior is to avoid all sexual activity, and the discussion empowers teens to make the healthiest sexual decision, regardless of their previous sexual experience.** SRA curricula gives teens all of the vital information about contraception—the health benefits as well as the limitations, including the varying effectiveness against different types of STDs.
** Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Trends in the prevalence of sexual behavior. National YRBS: 1991-2009. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYauth/yrbs/trends.htm.
Does SRA curriculum lack inclusivity towards LGBT teens?
A common misconception from critics is that SRA curricula has no relevance for LGBTQ adolescents. Our presentations are taught in a sensitive manner, delivering information that is relevant to all students, regardless of sexual orientation, to achieve optimal health.
CDC data shows that sexual minority youth—those who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, or who have sexual contact with persons of the same or both sexes—are at substantial risk for serious health outcomes. Among young people (aged 13-24) diagnosed with HIV in 2015, 81% were gay and bisexual males.*
Because we focus on health issues common to all youth, our programs and topics are relevant and helpful for young people from any background. We promote equality in health for all by encouraging young people, regardless of sexual orientation, to delay sexual behavior and build healthy relationships.
*Center for Disease Control, Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 2016.