Assignment 22 - Reducing Sexual Risk

Could it happen to you?

People often seem to go through life acting as if they have superhuman powers and abilities to escape from harm that will only affect "somebody else." So, will it ever happen to you?

Read the situations listed below. Keep track of your answers in your mind or on a piece of paper.

Could it happen to you? Choose from the following options:

No Way!                    Unlikely                    Possibly                    Yes                    Already Has

1. Become infected with the chicken pox?

2. Have to spend time in a hospital?

3. End a great friendship?

4. Fail a course in school?

5. Smoke?

6. Become addicted to alcohol?

7. Try drugs?

8. Be physically abused by someone you know?

9. Drive with someone who is drunk or high?

10. Shoplift or steal?

Reflect on your answers. How many did you answer as "No Way!" or "Unlikely." Why would you say that? What personal qualities do you have that make you sure that would not ever happen to you? What decisions would you make to ensure this doesn't happen to you? What supports do you need to make sure you are able to stick to your answers?

However hard you try to make positive personal decisions, there are sometimes obstacles that get in your way. Who or what might pressure you to make more risky choices? Who or what might prevent you from changing your risky behaviours to less risky ones? If one of these things does happen to you, how would that change your plans for your life? How would that change your opinion of yourself?

What are risky behaviours?

Risky behaviours are things that have a potential to negatively affect you now or in the future.

  • If you drive a car while intoxicated, you could get into an accident and injure yourself or someone else.
  • If you have unprotected sex, you could get an incurable STI that will affect your life and relationships forever.

It could be something that you only do once in your whole life, or something that happens to you over and over again.

  • If you use an illegal drug one time, you could end up accidentally overdosing due to contamination in the drug.
  • If you are in an abusive relationship, you put yourself at risk of frequent physical, sexual, or emotional harm.

It could be something that you choose to do, something you are forced to do, or something that happens accidentally.

  • If you have sex, even protected sex, you could become pregnant or cause someone else to get pregnant.
  • Choosing to use alcohol may lead to becoming an abuser and alcoholic if your use becomes uncontrollable.

It has more negative consequences than positive consequences.

  • Using drugs may feel good in the moment, but you could harm your health and become addicted.
  • If you share pictures and words of a sexual nature on the internet, you may feel empowered, loved, and desired, but they can be shared with other people without your knowledge or consent.

Risk Analysis

Every time you make a decision you have to make a risk analysis. You need to weigh the options and decide which is the best one for you. What are the costs/risks/negative consequences if I do this? What are the benefits/rewards/positive consequences if I do this? Even something simple as making yourself a sandwich for lunch has its own costs and benefits.

Decision: Should I make a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch?

Cost: It will take time to make it, and I'm a busy person, so I could just eat a bag of chips that doesn't take any time away. It's possible I could burn myself on the stove. Grilled cheese isn't the most healthy option I have available, so maybe I'm damaging my health.

Benefit: I'm hungry, so it fulfills my need to eat. I enjoy eating grilled cheese, so it will make me happy. If I eat this now, I will have more energy to do other things this afternoon.

Look at all of the costs and benefits that are associated with a simple decision! Imagine how many you need to think of for a decision that is complex, involves other people, or will have a permanent impact on your life.

Avoiding Risky Behaviours

Avoiding risky behaviours can be challenging because we often feel pressured, especially in group settings, to fit in with our friends and peers. That is a normal part of growing up and living through life as a teenager. You may feel a fear of saying no to your friends because they will judge you or not like you anymore. You may want to fit in or feel loved by a family member, so you will go along with what they ask. You may be using drugs or alcohol and this impairs your judgement in certain situations.

If you have a strong idea about things that you want to do or don't want to do, it will be important for you to identify and develop personal qualities to help you resist these outside pressures.

  • Emotional maturity and integrity - When you are emotionally mature you know yourself and your feelings very well. You know how certain things make you feel and you know when something just isn't right for you. Emotionally mature people are able to stick to a difficult decision because they know what is best for them. If you have integrity you stay true to yourself all the time, even if you are pressured to do otherwise.
  • Ability to resist pressure - Peer pressure isn't always easy to see. It can be subtle, like a look or a little laugh at you. It can be a joke about you that you know wasn't really meant as a "joke." It can be hurtful, frequent, and hard to escape from. If you are able to resist pressure, you can put these things
  • Respect for other people - If you respect others, you will not be a person who pressures your friends or family to do things they don't want to do. If you know that a risky behaviour will hurt someone you care about, you will not ask or suggest that they do it.
  • Self control - Risky behaviours have an allure because they can give you an instant and satisfying reward. Getting high can make you feel good in a moment, but it's only later that you realize the consequences. If you have self control you can stop a risky behaviour before it becomes a habit or an addiction.
  • Self esteem - If you are confident in yourself and feel good about yourself, pressure to participate in risky behaviours do not affect you as much. Your self-worth is not tied to what others think about you, so you can feel free to make decisions that will be healthy for you physically and emotionally. Even if you lose friends and become isolated from family, you will be strong enough to deal with it and move on with a decision that you know is right.

Assignment 5 - Reducing Sexual Risk

Read the following case study. As you are reading, reflect on the risks behaviours that Michelle showed. Do an analysis: What are the risks and rewards? What negative influences lead Michelle into this situation? What decisions could she have made to avoid this? What can she do now that it has happened to her? How will this affect her life in the future?

Click on the link below to download and read the "inspired by real life" story. Complete the questions and submit your answers in the Online Submission box or as a Word document.

Case Study 1 - Michelle's Story