A New Jersey Assembly committee has passed a package of bills aimed at preventing students from becoming a victim of sexual misconduct.
The legislation would require school districts to provide instruction on sexual abuse awareness, the meaning of consent for sexual activity, and the consequences of distributing sexually explicit images through electronic means.
Sussex County resident Allison Pereira says when she was a high school sophomore, a topless photo she sent to her ex-boyfriend went viral on the internet.
“Girls would threaten to beat me up on a daily basis because their boyfriends had received the picture and they didn’t want their boyfriend seeing another girl like that. Many of the boys used to tell me that I would never get another boyfriend because everyone had already seen everything that I had to offer and that no one would want to go out with a girl who everyone had seen that way.”
Assembly Education Committee chairwoman Pamela Lampitt says students need to be taught at an early age about the dangers of sexual misconduct so they are better able to protect themselves.
“Potentially our schools are apprehensive to do this for fear of liability, for fear of outrage from the parentals. They need the support of those that have delved into it, that have investigated it.”
Patricia Teffenhart, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, believes requiring that information be provided to students would have an impact.
“I think kids are really smart. They’re paying attention. Everyone is talking about me-too. Everyone is talking about interpersonal violence. They’re savvy. And I think that they’re eager for information to help protect themselves or identify ways to protect their friends if their friends are in violent relationships.”
Teffenhart says parents also need to reinforce that message at home.