Sex Week: A Fearless Idea

Unplanned Pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and sexual violence disproportionately burden young adults:

  • Half of the 20 million STIs diagnosed every year in this country are among 15-24-year-olds.
  • HIV is diagnosed at the highest rates among 20-24-year-olds.
  • About 1.3 million unplanned pregnancies occur in unmarried women in their early 20’s who experience unplanned pregnancy at the highest rate; more than teens and women in their late 20’s.
  • Approximately 1 in 4 college women report that they have survived a rape and about 1 in 5 high school women report the same.
  • 58% of college students say they don’t know what to do to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse.

College professionals across the country unfortunately see these statistics brought to life and significantly shift the trajectory of a student’s life as well as their academic and personal potential. Many campuses are faced with reactively addressing these serious consequences among a group of young adults that have matriculated into college with inadequate and insufficient education about their bodies, sexuality, sexual responsibility and sexual wellbeing.

The University of Maryland’s Division of Student Affairs believes that in order for students to reach their maximum potential, we must cultivate and support their personal, social, physical, and intellectual development. Therefore, we have decided to proactively and positively address the sexual health needs and concerns of our students by creating a Sexual Health and Awareness Week, “Sex Week,” that will provide a variety of resources, perspectives, and forums for our students to become educated leaders in sexual safety and responsibility on campus with a strong foundation to build upon throughout their adult lives. The week’s program has been framed around our divisional values: enhancing individual development; encouraging student health & wellbeing; and facilitating diversity.

Our University Health Center has collaborated with many campus units and student groups to provide diverse opportunities for new information and development. Our kick-off health fair will include Maryland Hillel, University Student Judiciary, The Help Center, the Catholic Student Center, LGBT Equity Center, The Vagina Monologues, UMD Feminists, the Pride Alliance, Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy, Student Government, Resident Life among many more campus partners.

The Prince George’s County Health Department, local sexuality educators, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and many more will be joining us on campus for a variety of informative and inclusive programs. The calendar includes an interactive sexual assault prevention workshop, free HIV/STI testing, a Women’s Health Open House, informative conversations about birth control, a communication workshop, various programs from religious and spiritual perspectives, Queer Open Mic (in honor of National Coming Out Day) and more!

The goal of Sex Week is to promote an informed and empowered community to support our fellow Terps and cultivate a campus where we take pride in safety, responsibility and respect. Our campus will not let the daunting statistics define our culture. Our FEARLESS IDEA is to take the subject head on and set a precedent to all campuses that our students can BE THE CHANGE.

Jenna Beckwith
Sexual Health Program Coordinator, University Health Center
jbeckwith@health.umd.edu