The Respect(Ed) curriculum is unique because it is designed based on the latest empirical research, the real-world experiences of young people today, and years of student and presenter feedback. Over time, we've developed a set of strategies that guide our curricular design process and form the core of our educational philosophy.
The fundamental ultimate purpose of the Respect(Ed) curriculum is sexual violence prevention. Currently in America close to half of all women and just under a quarter of men 1 have experienced sexual violence at some point during their lifetimes. This is an outrageous and deplorable reality that should concern all of us. We know that sexual violence is an issue so deeply rooted in our society that it in order to fully eradicate it, we have to discuss a wide range of topics including relationships, identity, social power dynamics, and sexism. However, all our curricular materials are designed with the ultimate purpose of preventing sexual violence.
One of the many benefits of the peer education model is the fact that peer educators are already very familiar with the typical habits and attitudes of their classmates. The Respect(Ed) curriculum is committed to meeting young people where they're at. We're not going to pretend that everyone will always obey the law or make the safest possible decisions. Instead, we hope we can provide students with the knowledge and tools to prevent assault, even in risky or suboptimal situations.
We don't think it's effective when adults tell young people how to act or what to believe. Instead, we empower students to become educators themselves. Our curriculum is not prescriptive, but rather invites participants to consider various tools and resources and ultimately reach their own conclusions. Instead of lecturing, peer educators use activities and discussion questions to encourage students to develop their own definitions, values, and boundaries.
Sexual violence is a difficult and complicated issue. We know that real world experiences, especially among young people, aren't always as clear-cut as common perceptions of what "typical" sexual assault looks like. The Respect(Ed) curriculum aims to resist oversimplification and generalization while still providing students with key tools that will help them navigate a wide variety of complex situations.
Sexual violence can affect anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, or religion. However, we know that people from certain groups (such as women 2 , transgender individuals 3 , and indigenous people 4 ) experience sexual assault at disproportionate rates. More generally, personal identities influence the way all of us interact with the world. We know that sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of societal oppression contribute to the prevalence of sexual violence. The Respect(Ed) curriculum strives to be inclusive in a way that forefronts and interrogates difference, rather than ignoring it. We encourage our peer educators to be as open as they feel comfortable about their own identities and to create a safe and confidential space in the classroom for students to speak from their own personal experiences.
We NEVER employ (and condemn in the strongest sense) fear tactics, victim blaming, slut shaming, and abstinence-only doctrines of education. We denounce the fact that, of the the 29 states (and the District of Columbia) that mandate sex education in public schools, only ten require that education to be medically accurate 5 . Respect(Ed) strives to present the most accurate information possible, which is why we furnish our peer educators with the most recent research available. We also regularly revise and update our curriculum according to student and presenter feedback to keep it relevant to the ever-changing realities of life as a young person in the U.S. And we always consult with new student peer education coordinators to help them adapt our curriculum to fit the unique issues at their particular schools.