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Young people with a learning disability are being denied sex-positive relationships and sex education #SHW19

Despite becoming mandatory in 2020, inclusive relationships and sex education (RSE) remains a taboo subject.

Sadly, due to societal attitudes and lack of resources, those most likely to miss out are young people with a learning disability.

This Sexual Health Week, young people’s sexual health and wellbeing charity, Brook, is working with the learning disability charity, Mencap to shout louder about the needs of young people with disabilities and support professionals delivering RSE.

Richard Lawrence, Project Support Assistant and Co-chair of the Sexuality and Relationship Steering Group at Mencap, said:

“Some people are quick to judge people with a learning disability, like me, when it comes to sex and relationships. People with a learning disability have a right to choose if they would like to be in a relationship, have sex or get married.

“People have judged me for wanting to be in a relationship and have told me that because I have a learning disability I don’t understand what a healthy relationship, consent or safe sex is.”

When Brook Surveyed those delivering RSE to young people with a learning disability, 80% said they struggle to find accessible resources that meet the needs of those they work with. A further 80% find it challenging to find images that reflect the experiences of young people who have a learning disability.

Helen Marshall, Chief Executive at Brook, said:

“The reality is that lots of sexual health messages received by young people who have a learning disability are negative and focus primarily on risks and inappropriate behaviours. These are important aspects but there needs to be a balance. If RSE is accessible, positive and inclusive, it can empower young people to become more independent, explore and develop healthy relationships and help to protect against abuse.”

This is why Brook is using its first Sexual Health Week to start important conversations about sex and disability, challenging misconceptions and providing support to professionals delivering RSE.

The charity has launched a suite of free downloadable resources on a range of topics including; masturbation, same-sex relationships and pornography. Each topic is accompanied by a handout for young people to take away to continue reinforcing their learnings.

Richard says: “Back when I was in school, I only got taught the basics, like here is a man and here is a woman. I didn’t learn anything about consent, safe sex or LGBT. It’s a lot harder for people with a learning disability to find out about sex and relationships because accessible information is hidden away. That’s why Mencap is proud to be collaborating with Brook to make a positive difference to the next generation of people with a learning disability.”

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