Sexual Violence Prevention Legislation
As part of our ongoing efforts to address the crisis of sexual violence among people with disabilities, and to promote a culture of prevention around sexual violence, Upstream Arts has been partnering with ARC Minnesota, the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, and other key stakeholders around potential legislation.
On Monday, February 25, Upstream Arts Executive Director Julie Guidry testified at the Minnesota State Capitol at a hearing for a bill that would specifically require sexual violence prevention to be included in the training and orientation of Direct Service Professionals (HF 3336/SF 3177).
As sexual violence continues to be a public health crisis in Minnesota, people with disabilities experience this at a rate seven times higher than those without disabilities. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are important partners in prevention work, as they are on the ground, working directly with people with disabilities to support them in achieving their community and self-directed goals. These professionals can have a huge impact on a culture of bodily autonomy, modeling appropriate touch, and healthy relationships, all important parts of sexual violence prevention. DSPs also need to tools to recognize signs of abuse, and skills and support in having conversations around sexual violence.
“I can tell you that DSPs are pivotal partners in prevention. They can see signs or symptoms of abuse, they can be a resource for people with disabilities who need information on what a healthy relationship is, and they can model appropriate boundaries. Moreover, DSPs want and need information and training specific to prevention of sexual violence; they believe in the importance and power of this information, and they are struggling to find the appropriate resources and tools to help them succeed.” – Julie Guidry
While current licensing has certain training requirements, they do not include sexual violence prevention. By providing DSPs with training about healthy relationships, consent, and bodily autonomy for individuals with disabilities, service providers can give their staff necessary tools that help prevent sexual violence against people with disabilities in our communities.
We’re honored to be part of this group of advocates. We know from our partnerships and from our direct experience teaching The Art of Relationships program that there is a huge need for more information and training. Individuals with disabilities, DSPs, and leadership are all eager for more tools to address healthy relationships; the response to our current trainings and programming is overwhelmingly positive. The effort behind this proposed legislation is to make trainings more widespread, and to shift the broader culture towards one of sexual violence prevention.
A Multi-pronged Approach to Prevention
Supporting this legislation is just one of the ways that we’re working to build awareness and shift culture. Last year we were contracted through the Minnesota Department of Health to hold Community Listening Sessions around prevention. We compiled the results of those community conversations, held with individuals with disabilities, family members, and staff, and the learnings have made their way into our Art of Relationships program and training. Click here to read a portion of our findings, collected in the MN Department of Health Communities First Cohort 2 Report.
This winter we partnered with Adult Day Program MSS on a poster campaign and conversation, also thanks to a grant from the MN Department of Health Sexual Violence Prevention Program. Click here to read more about the campaign and see the impactful posters that artists at MSS created.
Since 2014 we’ve been bringing The Art of Relationships program to Adult Day Programs, most recently to groups of men and women at MSS, supported by the WCA Foundation and California Institute of Contemporary Arts. Using the arts to make sometimes difficult material more accessible, we teach foundations of healthy relationships and sex education.
This year Upstream Arts will bring The Art of Relationships program to a number of high schools and transition programs, as students receiving Special Education Services often do not have access to sex education curriculum or information about healthy relationships. We’re committed to spreading awareness and prevention throughout our community, sharing information and cultivating a culture of consent with and alongside individuals with disabilities, families, support staff, and the community at large.