Talking About Sexuality In The Illawarra

Tracy Spark

Talking about sexuality can be an uncomfortable experience for many people. Talking about it with people who have an intellectual disability can cause parents, carers and service providers to become embarrassed, anxious and confused. As a result issues associated with sexuality are often avoided or ignored.

The consequences of not talking about sexuality however can be very serious - and the negative effects may a lifetime.

Sexuality is not just about sex, it is about how you feel about yourself and your body, and how you relate to others. A lack of understanding or denial of natural human behaviours can impact on the physical, emotional and social development of an individual, with or without a disability. This can result in increased potential for exploitation and abuse, problematic inappropriate behaviour, and unsafe sexual practices.

FPA Health & Family Planning NSW, an organisation that promotes the reproductive and sexual health of the people of NSW, recognises the special needs of people with a disability. To support 'talking about sexuality' with people with disability, and to celebrate the International Day of People with a DisAbility, the organisation presented a community forum at Wollongong City Council. The day is a celebration of ability - people with intellectual disabilities can and do develop relationships, desire intimacy and seek sexual expression".

FPA Health opened the forum with ideas and strategies that people can use to actually 'talk about sexuality' with people with an intellectual disability. There was much interest in the range of resources available from FPA Health, and in the individual and confidential assistance provided by staff of the phone information service, FPA Healthline 1300 658 886.

Community educators from the Intellectual Disability Rights Service discussed 'Sexuality, Disability and the Law - what we ALL need to know', and advocates, People with a Disability NSW, followed up with a lively discussion on 'Being Sexually Active: supporting choice'. The presentations were based very much on the experience of people the organisations have represented, and issues raised were of great interest to both service providers and parents in the audience.

Feedback from forum participants was overwhelmingly positive - 'not long enough' was the most negative comment received. If it were not for the rumble of empty tummies and the call of lunch, we could all still be chatting away now. It might be difficult to talk about sexuality, but once you get started it's even more difficult to stop!

Tracy Spark, Health Promotion Officer, FPA Health
4225 3574
[email protected]