Family members, friends, and staff all have a role to play in providing sexual health support for people with cognitive disabilities. How we show up for people can make things easier for them, or much harder.
In a 2017, a research team in the UK interviewed people with cognitive disabilities about their experience with romantic relationships, dating, marriage etc. Every single person interviewed who was in a romantic relationship of some sort could point to specific ways their support network had helped them find and / or maintain that relationship. Likewise, people interviewed who were frustrated at not finding a relationship often pointed to ways in which people in their support network had stood in their way.
As well, studies around the world show that people with cognitive disabilities are at increased risk of experiencing sexual abuse. Having a person or people in their lives with whom they can have frank conversations about sexual health topics is a key factor in reducing their risk of abuse.
While it may not be easy or comfortable to engage with folks we support around these topics, the benefits can be profound. And the good news is, we don’t have to be perfect at this – or even feel confident at this – to make a big difference. Join the conversation!
It’s amazing how our bodies are able to feel pleasure – whether it’s the taste of ice cream, the feeling of petting a kitten, the sound of our favourite song, the smell of jasmine flowers, the sight of a beautiful sunset, or the emotions we experience when we spend time with a good friend.
Sex can also be pleasurable – whether we are masturbating by ourselves or having sex with someone else. But it can be harder to talk about sex than about ice cream or sunsets. So we might wonder: Should sex feel good for us? How do people make sex feel good / better? Is it ok for us to have sexual pleasure by ourselves (also known as masturbation)? What should we do if sex is pleasurable for our partner but not for us? How do we get comfortable with feeling this kind of pleasure if bad sexual stuff has happened to us? Who are the right people to ask about these things?
Could your organization benefit from a staff team that’s confident about providing sexual health support? Real Talk offers free staff training run by Certified Sexual Health Educators to community living organizations in Metro Vancouver. (If your organization is outside of this region, we may still be able to work with you – be in touch and we’ll see what’s possible.)
Click here for more information on our Approachable Support trainings.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to book.