To the editor:

As a counselor who has worked in a mental health hospital for two years with adolescents, I recommend calling attention to the proposed bill, The Healthy Youth Act, in Massachusetts.

I have worked with many clients who identify as LGBTQ+ members who require different needs and clients who have a history of sexual trauma. We educate adolescents on utilizing healthy coping skills to get through difficult life events. Our greatest priorities for our clients are safety and responsibility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexual violence continues to be a significant problem in the United States. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 female rape victims and 1 in 4 male rape victims experienced it for the first time between 11-17 years old. Meanwhile, the LGBTQ+ community is at an increased risk of experiencing sexual violence.

The Healthy Youth Act requires all school districts who currently provide sex education to guarantee it is comprehensive, age-appropriate, and LGBTQ+ inclusive. It also emphasizes education about informed consent to prevent sexual violence.

This bill would help normalize LGBTQ+ sex education and create an inclusive environment for all students.

Providing education on informed consent would help students understand what is considered sexual assault and harassment so they can protect themselves and seek services when needed.

I encourage those who support this bill to vote in favor of it and pass legislation.

Jillian Heffernan