Celebrating Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Week
This week the world will be filled with hearts and roses in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
It’s a fun day for couples, but we want to open up the conversation around relationships and sexuality to everyone – which is why we’ve dubbed this week ‘Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Week’!
To celebrate, we spoke to our Sexuality and Relationship Education Coordinator Alicia Melita to get the lowdown on all things, dating, sex, and relationship and sexuality related rights.
Where did the idea for Healthy Relationships and Sexuality Week come from?
Through talking to customers it became pretty evident that there’s many people with disability who aren’t aware of their sexuality and relationship related rights. We wanted to educate people around this area, because we realised if people didn’t even know their rights how could we move to the next step of educating people about relationships and sexuality.
Can you explain to us what you mean by ‘sexuality and relationships related rights’?
When we talk about sexuality and relationship related rights we mean the rights that everyone has when it comes to relationships and sex. These include the right to make our own choices; the right to learn about the body, sex and relationships; the right to enjoy sexual relationships, and the right to be free from abuse.
How will Northcott be celebrating the week?
We wanted to do something fun so that people with disability can learn about their sexuality and relationship related rights in a stress-free environment. So we’re encouraging people to host an event – it could be a staff initiative, or a customer-led activity to educate other people with disability about sexuality and relationship related rights.
One activity we get many requests for is speed dating nights. These events offer the perfect opportunity for customers to make their own relationship choices - which everyone has the right to do. It’s also a great way to practice social skills and meet new people – plus it’s a heap of fun!
Why is it important for people with disability to have access to information around relationships and sexuality?
Even though it is an important part of being human, it’s a subject that’s not often spoken about – in fact Northcott is one of the few disability service providers that offers this type of education.
It’s an important service to us because we understand that it is a human right to know about sex and relationships and to have the freedom to enjoy sex and relationships. We tend to find that it’s something that people with disability want to talk about, but they are often too afraid or don’t know how to address the subject. That’s why we provide this service to our customers and their families and carers.
Providing education is also a really good way to teach people with disability about consent and support them to understand that they are in charge of their bodies.
What would you say to those people who are interested in discussing this subject but might feel a bit shy?
It’s something that we talk about everyday, so it’s important that our customers know that we’re open and ok with whatever questions they may have – it’s very likely that we will have heard the same questions many times before.
I also think it’s important for people to know it’s normal and ok to feel nervous and shy when discussing these subjects. Even I feel embarrassed sometimes – there’s been plenty of instances where myself and customers have had a bit of a giggle about sex. I think it’s important to keep things light-hearted.
What are some of the most common questions that you get about relationships and sexuality?
One of the most common questions that we get is “can you help me find a girlfriend or a boyfriend?” Many of our customers want that companionship and are looking for someone to share their life with – so dating is a big one for us.
Following on from that people also have questions around seeing a sex worker and wanting to know what their options are in terms of engaging in sexual activity.
What can carers and family do to support people with disability who may have questions about this subject?
Talking about it is a great starting point. They don’t need to jump straight into talking about sex, the conversation can start with talking about relationships, for example using a person’s favourite TV show to talk about different relationships and have a bit of a discussion about it.
I think people often get quite scared when they hear sexuality education – they worry it’s solely about sex, but it’s generally not. Most of our focus is on educating people about building healthy relationships and dating. Those things aren’t quite as scary to talk about and people feel more comfortable about those subjects. Having that open conversation with a person with disability also allows them to feel safe and comfortable to ask further questions.
Where can people with disability and their families and carers go if they want support around relationships and sexuality?
Get in touch with our Sexuality and Relationship Education service and we can discuss how best to support customer’s based on their individual needs and questions – whether that’s through one-on-one education sessions, workshops or one of the many relationships and sexuality events we run each year – including our popular Feel the Vibe series.
Read about Mo’s experience with our Sexuality and Relationship Education service and how Alicia has supported him to explore new relationships and intimate experiences.
Each year Northcott joins with other disability organisations to take part in the glitter-filled Mardi Gras parade. Read more about it here.