HEART: Healthy sexuality, Education, Awareness and Relationship Training
Individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities are at an increased risk for experiencing sexual abuse and assault in their lifetimes.
The Office of Developmental Programs, Department of Human Services, recognizes the devastating impacts that sexual abuse and assault can have on individuals and developed a workgroup to address this important topic.
Members of the ASERT Collaborative (Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training), HCQUs (Health Care Quality Units) and the Temple Institute on Disabilities have worked together to develop a comprehensive collection of resources designed for a wide range of stakeholders around the topics of risk reduction, healthy relationships and healthy sexuality.
These resources focus on reducing the risks that are sometimes associated with relationships and sexuality for individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. These individuals are seven times more likely than the general population to experience sexual abuse or assault, and these resources are designed to provide information on specific risk factors, and what can be done to reduce those risks.
Teaching individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities about different types of relationships and what constitutes a healthy relationship is an important protective factor against sexual abuse and assault. These resources are designed to provide individuals with information about relationships, what makes a good relationship, what are some warning signs of potentially harmful relationships, and skills to learn to help develop relationships.
Many individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities are not taught proper sex education. Having a basic understanding of their bodies and sex is another important protective factor against sexual abuse and assault. Teaching individuals about puberty, sex, okay and not okay touches, consent and other topics around sexuality can help individuals engage in appropriate, consensual sexual activities while reducing their risk of being exploited or sexually abused or assaulted.
These resources are currently being developed by ASERT, Health Care Quality Units, and the Temple Institute on Disabilities. These resources will be released in three phases, with risk reduction resources coming out in the next few weeks.
Please check back often as new resources will be added.