Most people have an idea of some of the changes that occur during puberty. Most people have had that lesson at school, or been shown books or leaflets about it — and let’s be frank you’ve probably noticed some of these weird and wonderful changes happening to you, too. But some of the most important things are left out of the brochures.

Fact: Puberty is all about getting your body ready for sex and making babies

This doesn’t mean that the second you notice a couple of pubes in your pants you should all rush out and have sex. Puberty takes place over years and years and most people don’t finish changing until they’re in their early twenties.

School lessons usually cover the physical changes:

  • body odor
  • greasy hair
  • hairy armpits
  • voices breaking
  • hips widening
  • breasts emerging
  • muscles developing
  • Adam’s apples
  • periods
  • even wet dreams!

What they often leave out, though, is the emotional side.

During puberty you may feel out of sorts; like you are on an emotional rollercoaster. Feeling up and positive one minute, sad and foggy the next. You may also fee clumsy and awkward as you get used to your new and rapidly changing body and emerging sexuality. It can be a very confusing time so if you feel uncomfortable and a little lost, you are not alone. All of your friends are having similar experiences. You can help each other by talking things through and giving yourself enough down time to de-stress.

During puberty it’s not uncommon to suddenly become very self-conscious, and start to care more about what people think and how they see us. Puberty is scary and we are all insecure and desperate to fit in and be normal. We worry about showing who we really are and how we really feel. One of the main reasons for these feelings of insecurity is that during puberty we start to become attracted to people and have sexual feelings.

Boys’ Bodies

Once a guy hits puberty he begins to produce sperm cells in his testes, sperm are the male half of making a baby. At the same time they also produce a chemical called testosterone. Testosterone is the male hormone that causes all the other manly changes to take place during puberty, like…

  • getting hairy
  • growing a beard
  • getting more muscular
  • voice getting deeper
  • growing a little thatch of pubic hair just above and around the penis and on the scrotum
  • penis will grow (a bit) bigger
  • most importantly the balls will drop

People often use the phrase a guy’s balls drop to imply he has started puberty. What this means is that a his scrotum, the wrinkly sack just behind the penis which holds his testicles, starts to hang a bit lower, away from his body. Technically a boy’s testicles should have dropped during infancy; they literally descend into the scrotum. But if this doesn’t happen by the time he is five he will have to have an operation. But the term is commonly used to mean that a young man has started to produce sperm during puberty.

Why do balls drop? It has to do with temperature. Your normal body temperature is around 98.6°F. However, to produce sperm, the temperature needs to be a bit cooler so our testicles dangling between our legs, keeping them nice and cool!

Another thing he’ll notice is that one of his balls will hang slightly lower than the other. Again this is perfectly normal – and actually is quite important. Unlike the ladies, boys don’t have wide hips and because we often have more muscular thighs our legs brush together when we walk. If one of our testes didn’t hang slightly lower than the other we’d crush them.

For more about men’s health, read the blog on

Sex and Baby Making—the Male Perspective

When a guy’s penis becomes hard, the foreskin will pull back to reveal the head or glands is full of nerve endings, which is why it feels good to touch. If stimulated long enough, either by rubbing with your hand when masturbating or by moving inside a partner’s body during sex, it triggers a reaction which causes sperm to be released from the testes.

The sperm travels along a tube, past the prostate, a small walnut-sized gland that makes the white sticky liquid we call semen. Semen helps to protect the sperm cells from the conditions inside a girl’s body. Plus it’s full of vitamins and nutrients; it’s like Gatorade for the sperm as they attempt to travel the long distance to fertilize the girl’s egg cell.

As the sperm cells become mixed within semen, the muscles at the base of the penis contract causing the semen to propel out of the opening at the end. This is called ejaculation. Ejaculation is the physical act of releasing semen from the penis. This feeling of release is called an orgasm and it feels quite nice. Some orgasms can be quite intense, others not so much.

Girls’ Bodies

It is amazing how few people actually know what a vagina is or what it looks like. The main reason is that unlike with boys, female genitals are tucked away underneath, meaning girls can’t even see their genitals, or a glimpse anyone else’s, in the shower. The only way a girl can get a good look at is if she is very flexible or uses a mirror.

What you can see on the outside is known as the vulva. The outer lips are called the labia majora and the inner ones are called labia minora. Where the lips join at the top there is another flap of skin called the clitoral hood.

The labia surround the entrance to the vagina and act as a doorway, allowing the inside of the vagina to stay warm and moist, a great environment to keep the friendly bacteria happy, keep the vagina clean and healthy.

The vagina is the canal that we use for sex and the opening babies come out of. This is where a girl bleeds from when she is on her period and it the place she may insert a tampon. However, this is not the same spot that girls pee from. Just above the vaginal opening is another very tiny hole which is the urethra, which is the tube which leads to the bladder. This is the opening from which a girl will urinate from.

Menstrual Cycle

Starting your period can hold a lot of anxiety for some young girls, so let’s try and clear a few things up. The average cycle is taken to be 28 days, however for most women their cycles can last anywhere from 18-26 days. When a girl first begins her cycle they can be a bit random and take a while to settle down into a regular pattern.

Day one of the cycle is always taken as the first day a girl bleeds and gets her period, however it is easier to explain if we start right in the middle of the cycle on day 14 – ovulation – the day a girl first releases an egg.

Now every woman is different and will notice different side effects that accompany the various stages of their cycle. For example, some women may experience mood swings around their period. Some people will feel quite fragile or emotional, some get short tempered and snappy – for others they won’t notice anything in particular.

Some girls experience menstrual cramps, which are caused by the uterus involuntarily contracting in an effort to squeeze the lining out as quickly as possible. Some girls find some relief in a hot bath, others have to take painkillers regularly, and others won’t notice any pain whatsoever.

Sex and Baby Making---the Female Perspective

At the top of the vagina lies the cervix, the entrance of the uterus. The cervix is a very strong muscle. Normally, it’s closed tightly, allowing only menstrual blood to exit and, sometimes, semen to enter. But it can also stretch wide enough to allow the head of the baby to pass through during labor.

You might think that the uterus is big since it is designed to house a growing baby. But it is actually quite tiny, only a couple of inches big, made of very stretchy muscle, which expands as a baby grows. A uterus will shrink back to its original size in about a week after a baby is delivered.

At the top of the uterus, to the left and the right, are the fallopian tubes and the girl’s two ovaries. Even when she’s a baby, still inside her mother’s uterus, she will already have all of the egg cells she will ever need stored inside her ovaries. Once she reaches puberty, she will release an egg each month. This is called the menstrual cycle.

Despite how things look, both girls and boys genitals work in very similar ways. Just like with boys, when a girl gets turned on:

  • Blood flow is increased around the genitals, causing the inner and outer lips to swell and open slightly.
  • The clitoral hood at the top of the lips pulls back, as the clitoris grows engorged with blood.

As with the head of a boy’s penis the clitoris is full of nerve endings and can feel really good to touch. In fact the clitoris is even more sensitive, and should be handled with care. Its sole purpose is to give sexual pleasure.

As the muscles of the vagina begin to relax, it becomes easier for a boy’s penis to fit inside. Inside the vagina are the bartholin glands that produce fluid that lubricates the inside, making it easier and more pleasurable for the penis to slip in and out of the vagina.


How Do You Know You Are Ready?

Once puberty starts, it is natural for young people to be fascinated by sex and to gossip and joke about it. But there’s something important that you need to know: People are not always truthful when they talk about sex.

Just because someone tells you they slept with four people, doesn’t mean it’s true. There is an old adage: Those who shout about it aren’t. Keep this in mind when people brag about how much sex they’re having.

Sex is not a competition. There are no prizes for being the first and no penalties for waiting until you’re older. According to the most accurate statistics we have, most people lose their virginity at about 16 years. And you want to hear something really surprising? This hasn’t changed since your parents were losing their virginity!

Having sex for the first time, or the fiftieth time is a choice for you to make alone. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says or what you read in the papers or hear on the TV. This is your decision; your choice. No one else can tell you when you are ready.

For more about sex, other options, and healthy decision making, read the blog on

Love and Sex

Sex can be something that people in love do. It is a way to show someone that you love them. But having sex with someone will not make a person fall in love with you or make them stay in love with you. Sex doesn’t work that way.

Love doesn’t work that way, either. Just because you love someone does not mean you are supposed to have sex with them. Sometimes people get confused and think sex and love are the same thing but they’re not. That’s why “I love you” sometimes means, “I want to have sex with you” and other times, “I want to have sex with you” means “I love you.”

It can be very confusing. This is one of the reasons that many adults want younger people to save sex for when they’re older and in a committed relationship. We are not contradicting this but we want you to know that just because you wait to have sex until you are a long-term relationship doesn’t mean the sex will be fulfilling, meaningful, or even safe.

Being in love does not remove the risks from having sex. That’s why it’s so important to ask yourself is why are you having sex. Is it for you or to please someone else? Is it because it’s what you want? Or is it because all your friends are (supposedly) doing it?

Sex mean lots of different things to different people. One of the most important jobs of your teen years is to discover what it means to you.

How to Say ‘No’

All sexual activity is about choices. You should never feel like you have to do anything you don’t want to do, whether it’s kissing, touching, stroking or intercourse. Even if you have done it before – that doesn’t mean you have to do it again!

It helps if you know your own boundaries. If you know that you don’t want to have sex make sure that you don’t enter a situation where someone will expect you to have sex (upstairs at a party, away from your friends at the park etc.)

Different ways to say no…

  • The best way is to be direct. Look them in the eye and say “No.”
  • Say ‘I’m not interested”
  • If you’re not ready, say ‘Let’s wait’
  • Suggest you do something else together

If someone really loves you, they won’t expect you to have sex unless you’re really ready. Sex can be a way of showing love but if someone uses this fact to pressure you by saying something like, “If you really love me, you’ll have sex with me,” it’s time to walk away because daring you to prove love is not love.

There are other ways to show love:

  • Make sure the other person feels important and respected
  • Give a hug
  • Kiss
  • Hold hands
  • Give a special present
  • Spend time together
  • Talk about your feelings
  • Snuggle up together
  • Give compliments
  • Just be there
  • Find out what makes each other happy
  • Have a request played on the radio
  • Have your picture taken together

Sex for One

Masturbation is the sex you have with yourself. There are little risks involved, you can’t get pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted infection, and it is much easier to achieve an orgasm.

Masturbation used to have a a bad reputation. Even now some people think it’s dirty or perverted, or something a bit sad – it’s what you do if you can’t get a girlfriend or boyfriend – but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Masturbation is a normal, healthy part who we are as human beings. Regardless whether you are a girl or boy there is absolutely nothing wrong with masturbating every now and again. In fact masturbation releases endorphins in the brain, these are chemicals that help us feel good, combat stress, and boost your immune system.

It’s also a good way to get to know your own body – to find out what you like and what turns you on. Find some time by yourself when you can really relax and take the time to explore yourself. Your whole body is full of nerve endings too, so don’t spend all your time with your hand in your pants! There are plenty of hidden erogenous zones there for you to discover.

There is no right or wrong way to masturbate – the whole point is to do what feels nice for you.

Can you masturbate too much?

There are plenty of jokes about teenage boys not being able to keep their hand out of their pants. But it is perfectly natural for some teens to masturbate a lot. However, this sometimes leads to the worry that you can actually masturbate too much. As long as you’re not getting sore and it is not getting in the way of you doing anything else you should be doing, then generally it’s okay.

While it is great to get to know your own body and learn what makes you feel good – don’t the relationship you have with your hand get in the way of relationships with other people. Oh, and one final point, while masturbation is nothing to be ashamed of, it is considered bad manners to do it in public. It’s something you do in private.

The First Time

The first time you have sex is scary and exciting. Some people want the first time to be special. Others just want to get on with it. And everyone wants to be thought of as good at it. But the fun and pleasure of sex can take a while so the first time can be a bit of a disappointment, and even leave you feeling confused or used. So what makes the difference?

You do.

If you are having sex to make someone else happy – it won’t work. If you are having sex because your partner or friends are pressuring you – it won’t work. If you have been drinking – it won’t work. Why? Because the most powerful sexual organ in your body is your brain so if you head isn’t in the right place, you won’t have a positive experience. Trust us on this one.

If you are planning on having sex then do some planning! Talk to your partner, talk about contraception, about protecting each other against STIs, and most importantly, talk about how you feel. There are no condoms to protect your emotional health! Most people who lose their virginity say that the experience was much better when they had sex for the first time with someone who they knew, had mutual trust and respect for and most importantly someone they felt comfortable with. If you are not worried about getting pregnant or catching STIs or them running off and telling everyone then you can sit back and relax.

Find somewhere you feel safe and comfortable. Not upstairs at a party, or anywhere you might be interrupted. Somewhere you can both relax and take your time. Remember sex is something you should do in your own time and on your own terms – not because someone else says so.

Sex isn’t like what you see in the movies. It is sticky, messy, and clumsy. You will bang heads, fart or get cramp at the wrong moment. This doesn’t mean first time sex will be awful or something you regret. If you are relaxed and don’t take yourself too seriously, it can be a warm, fun, and very special experience for you and your partner.

That said, there is no rush! Waiting to have sex until you’re older is okay!

Doing It

Regardless of who you happen to be in bed with – whether you are a guy and a girl, two boys or two girls – people generally have sex in the same way.

  • Manual sex – using your hands
  • Oral sex – using your mouth
  • Penetrative sex – putting things inside someone
  • Rubbing your bodies together, either fully clothed or naked.

But this list glosses over all the other things that actually make up ‘having sex,’ like kissing, touching, stroking, cuddling, licking, biting, making out and general exploratory fondling that gets filed under the title, “Foreplay.”

Unfortunately, a lot of young people focus on a narrow definition of ‘sex,’ such as when a man puts his penis in woman’s vagina. When we ask our friends “have you had sex yet?” we tend to think about penetrating sex as the be-all-and-end-all but actually it can end up a bit of a disappointment.

If we think about the anatomy of boys and girls, many of the most sensitive parts of a girl’s body especially are neglected during vaginal sex. Indeed, the stuff we call foreplay can be the most exciting, as it builds up the anticipation and is often very intimate.


The other thing we rarely talk about is how important taking is. There is telling your partner how you feel about them, how much you love their body, and how they make you feel. Getting intimate with someone can be scary; letting someone touch you in places you have never let anyone touch you before, let alone getting naked with someone – is likely to make you worry and feel self-conscious. Everyone, no matter how confident or how fit they are, has hang-ups about their bodies. Being told by your partner how attractive they find you, is a big reassurance and the more comfortable you feel the more you will relax and both enjoy yourself.

Secondly, how can your partner be expected to know if what they’re doing is right or not if you don’t tell them? Communication is key. At heart we are all nervous and anxious to please. No one wants to be thought of as a bad kisser, we all want to be found attractive, and we all have insecurities. A lot of the time it is these insecurities, feeling out of your depth or very self-conscious that gets in the way of people actually enjoying sex. Talking and more importantly communicating with your partner is one of the best skills you can ever learn to have a full and positive sex life.

Sex and Alcohol

Alcohol and sex don’t actually mix very well. While alcohol can make you feel more confident, it negatively affects the brain, so you start slurring your words and tripping over your feet.

It also clouds your judgment. There is a reason why only drunk people do karaoke! But it’s more serious than that. People who have been drinking are less likely to use a condom (or any other protection for that matter).

If the prospect of unplanned pregnancy or an STI isn’t enough to make you think twice, you should also know that body stops working the way you want it to. It’s difficult for a man to get an erection and it’s harder for a woman to get aroused or achieve orgasm when she is wasted. Plus, nothing blows a romantic moment than having to stop kissing someone so you can go and be sick.Another thing: One in three sexual assaults involve alcohol. Whether you are too drunk to keep yourself safe, or cannot recognize the situation you are in, or feel unable to say no, alcohol can lead you to have sex when you may not want to.

Sex and Religion

Many people follow religion and it is a great source of happiness and support for them. Some people follow a religion because their family does and it is expected of them. However with different religions having different views on things such as sex before marriage, relationships and contraception, it is easy to feel confused about what to do and what is right in accordance with your faith.

If you are in a situation where relationships or sex conflict with your religious or cultural beliefs, it is important to think about how you feel and what your opinion is. It may also help to speak to someone to help work through your thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes feelings of guilt or shame can be attached to sex and religion. It is important to remember that you are a human being and that love and sex are natural and healthy part of life and is nothing to be ashamed of. Whether you choose to have sex or choose not to because of your beliefs is entirely up to you.

Sex and the Law

In Illinois, there is a legal age when you are allowed to have sex--17 years old. It’s called the age of consent. But people have sex before they reach this age, so what is the point of having a law you can’t enforce? There is nothing in the law to stop underage teens from having sex together.

Unfortunately by putting an age limit on things we don’t take in to consideration people’s maturity. You’ll know yourself that some people mature earlier than others. We don’t have perfect laws, but they’re in place to protect people

By establishing a legal age, we can prosecute those people who take advantage of children and abuse young people.

Accessing Sexual Health Services

Despite the fact it is not technically legal to have sex until you are 17, you can still have the right to access sexual health services if you are below the age of consent. So for example there is nothing to stop you visiting your doctor, or clinic and ask to be put on the pill or to get some condoms. You are able to do all these things without your parent’s knowledge or consent, but if you can talk to them first, you might get some good advice and support.

Simply put these guidelines mean you have the right to access sexual health advice and treatment without your parent’s knowledge or consent. It is completely confidential, so the doctor won’t get on the phone to your folks and tell them why you’ve been in the second you leave the room. However, most decent health professionals will encourage you to try to talk to your folks about your relationships, or if not your parents they’ll encourage you to find someone you can confide in. Having someone to talk to that you trust is one of the most important protective factors for your emotional health.

To learn more about your health rights, click here


Sexting isn’t just about words. Many teens have mobile phones that can take and share photos and video. But using your phone to take naked images of yourself and sending them to your boyfriend or girlfriend is, to be blunt, a totally whack idea.

Once you have sent an image it is up to the person who has received it what they do with that image. You are no longer in control of it.

What happens if you split up? What happens to the photos or footage then? You can’t make them delete it. Or what happens if someone ‘borrows’ or steals their phone? Your private images can be passed around and posted online for everyone to see. Including your parents.

What may seem like a harmless bit of fun can cause a lot of stress, embarrassment and heartache if it ends up in places you never intended it to. Our friendliest bit of advice: Don’t do it.


Be You. Be Happy

The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself. Sounds simple but many teens and young adults struggle to accept who they are and to feel comfortable in their own skin. It is ok to want to be the best ‘you’ you can be, but it’s important to remember that no one is perfect. Being happy being you includes enjoying good physical health, enjoying good mental health and a general sense of well-being and feeling good.

Below are just a few ways you can take care of your physical and mental health:

Build good friendships. Develop a network of good friends who can support you and enrich your life. Meet new people by playing sports or joining an after school club. Putting time and effort into having good friends helps your overall sense of wellbeing, too.

Take care of yourself. Keep your body healthy by staying physically active and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Physical and mental health are closely linked and it’s a lot easier to feel good about your life when your body feels good.

Put a check on stress. Stress is a part of life and it’s best to learn how to deal with it in helpful, healthy ways. Take a walk, listen to music, hanging out with your friends, even breathing exercises or yoga can help take your mind off things.

Keep well rested and refreshed. Make sure you get enough sleep by going to bed each night at a decent time. Sleep restores both your body and mind so you will not only look better, you will feel better, too.

Ask for help. There is no such thing as a perfect or worry-free life. Everyone has problems from time to time and needs a hand. When it does, ask your parents or the school nurse or school counselor for help. You don’t have to go it alone.

Be You and Single

Teens often feel pressured to be part of a couple, as if there’s something wrong with them if they are single. The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with being single. In fact, being single puts you in a good place to think about what you want and how you feel.

One of the most important things you can do for your own emotional health and wellbeing is to make sure you have time out just for you, to do what you want. When you are part of a couple, it is very easy to caught up pleasing your partner rather than thinking about what you like or want to do.

When you are single, you do not have to answer to anyone. Spend time with your friends, enjoy yourself, do the things you love. Get to know your body. Find out what you are good at and what makes you happy. Make some plans, set some goals. Learn to be comfortable simply being you.

Coming Out

Coming out (of the closet) is a figure of speech for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender that describes the disclosure of a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

  • homosexual (gay or lesbian)
  • heterosexual (straight)
  • bisexual (being attracted to both men and women)
  • transgendered (not identified with the gender that you were born with)

“Coming out” can be one of the most difficult things a person ever does. It may be tough but it can also bring relief, confidence, and respect.

This section includes:

  • When a friend comes out (see link text below)
  • Coming out at school (see link text below)
  • Telling your family (see link text below)

Some people feel attracted to the opposite sex. Some people are attracted to the same sex. Some people like both. Sometimes these feelings are permanent and sometimes, when a person is young and curious, these feeling can be temporary. This is perfectly natural and normal.

Nothing “makes” people gay, lesbian or bisexual. Nothing “makes” people straight, either. It is just the way some people are. No one knows why, but it doesn’t really matter. What is important is that you accept that everybody is different and get on with your life the way you want to live it, and let everyone else live their life the way they want to.

When a Friend Comes Out
Your best friend just told you they are gay. This might be a complete shock or you may have had known for some time. Either way, nothing has changed. Your friend is still the same person they were before they told you this new bit of information about themselves. So how are you going to react?

For teenage boys, who can be less sure about themselves than girls at this age, this can be a difficult situation. Some teen boys worry that if they remain friends with someone who is gay then others will assume that they are gay, too.

Set this worry aside for a moment and think about this: Your friend has just taken a huge risk and clearly trusts you and thinks a lot of you to tell you this. They must see you as a real friend, so act like one. They are looking for reassurance from you and are hoping you will understand them and not reject them.

Being Supportive

Your friend needs you to support them as they prepare to tell their family or even to come out to everyone at school. When friends are accepting and supportive, others will follow. Remember this is not about you. This is about them. So step up and be a friend.

Coming Out at School
We’re all human beings and we all want to fit in. It makes us feel safe and accepted. Coming out, especially if you are the first person in your class or school, can feel scary, even threatening. You are worried that you will be singled out, rejected, or ridiculed.

There are lots of young people who didn’t have any problems when they came out at school. But there are others whose lives become nightmares due to some people’s reactions. This has led some to wait until they are in college, when everyone seems more relaxed, mature and open-minded, before they choose to come out.

It’s Your Choice

It is your choice to come out when you are ready. The most important thing is that you have people around you, whether they are your friends, family or teachers, who you can talk to about how you are feeling.


Bullying a person because of their sexuality is wrong. Not so long ago, racism was tolerated in schools, but now it is inexcusable. The same goes for homophobia. Even though all schools must have an anti-bullying policy, policies alone don’t stop bullying from happening. You’ll know which members of staff you can trust and you can approach for support. Talk to them, tell them how you feel and ask them for help.

Coming out to your family
When you are a teenager, coming to understand that you are gay can be a scary. Even though it shouldn’t make a difference who we are attracted to, coming out can still be a big deal for some teens, especially if your family has traditional or strong religious beliefs where same sex relationships are not accepted.

Some people are lucky and have really accepting families who are nothing but supportive. Unfortunately, there are also some people whose family can’t cope with the thought of their little girl or boy being gay.

This is one of the reasons many people wait until they have left home or moved away before they come out. Only you will be able to gauge how your family will react. You might be surprised by how they react. We forget sometimes that parents and grandparents have lived a bit themselves and are more open-minded than we think.


Transgender Identities
“Transgender” and “gender non-conforming people” refer to people who transcend gendered social roles assigned at birth based on their anatomical sex. The term transgender is used broadly to refer to countless identities and gender expressions, including but not limited to: male-to female (MTF), female-to-male (FTM), genderqueer, trans, transsexual, cross dresser, boi, butch, queen, etc. The term gender non-conforming is used to refer to individuals who transgress gender in various ways, but who may not identify as transgender. Identity in this context is really about self-determination; about letting the world know how you identify instead of being classified by constructed gender norms. People come from different backgrounds and experience the world in different ways and as a result may attach entirely different meanings to what it means to be transgender or any of the other identities listed above. There is not one trans narrative, just as there is not one human narrative.

Self-determination refers to the right of individuals and communities to have full power over our own lives. We live under complex legal, medical, social and state systems that restrict gender expression and privilege some genders over others. Gender self-determination necessarily includes access to and control over healthcare, holistic mental and emotional support, fashion and self-expression, gender-affirming housing, education, bathrooms, and social services, freedom from violence, harassment, and incarceration, and all the tools we need to be fabulous, empowered and safe in how we live in our genders. Gender self-determination means having control over our own gender identities, free from limitation. Some aspects of one’s self identification include:

Pronouns are words used to refer to someone in the third person and, in the English language, pronouns often indicate someone’s gender identity. Common pronouns are “he” and “she.” If you are not sure what someone’s preferred pronoun is, simply ask, “What pronoun do you prefer?” If you discover that you have been using the wrong pronoun, politely correct yourself. As an ally, you can also interrupt someone who is mispronouncing another person so that the burden of making this correction isn’t on the transgender person.

“Transition” is a term some transgender people use to refer to the period of their lives where they are crossing from one gender identity to another. To be a trans ally, don’t make assumptions that there is one way that transpeople experience their gender transition. There are many different ways that a trans person can transition from one gender identity to another. For some, transition can be a fluid experience constantly changing over the course of someone’s life. Transpeople “come out” as transgender at all different ages and may change their gender identity once, several times, frequently, or constantly. Some transpeople choose to change their names and pronouns, to have surgeries, and to take hormones, while other transpeople do some or none of these things. Some transpeople identify as both feminine and masculine depending on the day or circumstance.

Sexual Orientation
Gender identity and sexual orientation are not synonymous. Sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to. Gender identity is about how you identify your gender. Like non-transgender people, transpeople can identify as gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, queer, etc.

Choosing a name is an important step in the transition process for many transpeople. Having a name that matches one’s gender identity is not only important to allow people to live life as their full selves, but it is also important for their safety. A legal name change is required in order to change identity documents. Without identity documents that match an individual’s gender presentation, people experience increased barriers to employment, housing, medical care, etc. It is never okay to ask someone what their “old” name or “real” name was. If a transperson wants you to know, they will tell you. For many transpeople, the name given to them at birth can carry a great deal of sadness connected to loss of families, jobs, feeling disconnected from self, etc.

Surgeries and Hormone Therapy
Medical options are a personal decision. As a trans ally, you should never ask transpeople invasive questions about their bodies. Most people wouldn’t ask a non-transgender person whether they are on hormones or whether they have had surgeries, and it isn’t respectful to ask a transperson these questions either. It is especially rude (and confusing) when transpeople are asked if they have had “the surgery.” There are many different surgical options for transgender people, not one single surgery. It is also important to remember that not all transpeople have the option of medically transitioning by using hormones or by having gender-affirming surgeries. Many of these gender-affirming procedures are incredibly expensive and are often specifically excluded from health insurance plans for people who have health insurance. Also, many transpeople have no desire to transition medically. No matter how someone transitions, all genders should be respected and celebrated without regard for a hierarchy based on medical interventions and procedures.

Disclosing Identity and “Outing”
Transpeople may choose to be “out” in a variety of ways. It’s up to each individual to decide if they want to disclose their gender history to others. Outing people as trans is disrespectful and a serious safety concern. Transpeople are subjected to violence, including murder, as a result of having their identities disclosed. Outing all too often leads to loss of employment, housing, family, and friends. Someone’s gender identity is not something that should be gossiped about or casually shared with others.

Gendered Spaces and Facilities
Gendered spaces include but are not limited to prisons, jails, group homes, restrooms, and locker rooms. When spaces are explicitly gendered, those who fall outside perceived social norms of gender can be subjected to violence, harassment, and discrimination.

Prisons and Jails. Prisons and jails are a harsh and demeaning environment for everyone who is locked up. There are three key problems faced by transgender and gender non-conforming people on the inside: 1) placement upon incarceration, 2) harassment and sexual violence, and 3) medical access.

Placement. Transgender inmates are placed according to sex assigned to them at birth in Illinois. If placed in general population, many transgender people face harassment and discrimination from other inmates. For their safety, some elect to be placed in a Protective Custody Unit. Unfortunately, protective custody often means limited access to work and educational programs, limited or no access to the law library, and excessive periods of isolation. Thus, most transgender prisoners do not elect protective custody and instead are placed with a cellmate in the general population. Many cellmates are transphobic – afraid of transgender people – and use the institutional offense process to make false complaints against transgender cellmates so that they are removed from their cell and placed in administrative segregation – also known as solitary confinement. No matter where they are placed, they are not safe as women in men’s prisons, and vice versa.

Harassment and Sexual Violence. Because transwomen are women in men’s prisons, many are targets for sexual assault and sexual violence by other inmates as well as correctional staff. Many transwomen have been raped while incarcerated due to their gender identity. In addition, many report a culture of homophobia and transphobia; consistently being called “faggot”, “sissy” and “freak” by other inmates and correctional staff. Harassment also often occurs through mail tampering by correctional staff, unjustified frequent cell searches, and strip-searches without legitimate reason.

Medical Access. Transgender people have serious medical needs relating to their gender identity and unrelated to their gender identity. Like anyone else, they have illnesses and require medication. Many transgender people find that medical access is restricted for all medical needs due to transphobia on the part of the Facility Medical Director as well as medical unit staff. Most transgender people who are incarcerated are either removed from hormone therapy immediately upon entry into a facility, or are denied access to hormones or other trans related healthcare. The impact of being denied hormones can have serious emotional and physical consequences.

Restrooms. Do not police restrooms! Trans and gender non-conforming people may not match narrowly constructed gendered bathrooms which can be extremely unsafe for transpeople. Determining which restroom to use, or whether a restroom can be used, can also cause a great deal of anxiety for transpeople. Encourage businesses, schools, airports, museums, and government buildings to create non-gendered restrooms that are accessible for transgender people and others.

Transgender inclusion in the Mainstream Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement
Many mainstream gay and lesbian organizations have added the “T” and hold themselves out to be LGBT organizations, but have done little to nothing to support transgender communities. Don’t just add the “T” without doing the work! Consider the needs and wishes of transgender and gender non-conforming communities and individuals when doing activist work, and remember that transphobia is an institutionalized problem that we all need to actively work against to unlearn – including gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and even transgender people.

Listening to Trans Voices
Do not make assumptions about what services or political actions are needed for members of the transgender community. One of the biggest roles of an ally is to learn how to listen to the needs of others. Do not rely on one trans person to inform you or educate you about what the needs are of varying trans communities. It is not the job of transpeople to educate non-transpeople about transphobia. If you are in a position to create change, empower trans and gender non-conforming folks to lead the way and help them with the tools that may be necessary to do so.

As a result of barriers to education, employment, housing, and medical care many trans and gender non-conforming people live in poverty. Low-income communities face higher rates of policing and arrests. Many transwomen, particularly transwomen of color, are profiled and arrested for prostitution even when not engaging in the sex trade – many practitioners refer to this as “walking while trans” much like racial profiling is called “driving while Black.” As a result of the barriers listed above, some trans and gender non-conforming people may be forced to rely on survival crimes such as trespass, loitering, retail theft, etc.

Transphobia and Violence
Trans and gender-non conforming people, particularly transwomen of color, are subjected to higher rates of violence as a result of transphobia. Transpeople can experience violence due to being “outed” and for not “passing.” Transpeople suffer violence at the hands of law enforcement, correctional staff, family members, teachers, etc. The barriers listed above often times place transpeople in situations where acts of violence are more likely to occur including: homeless shelters, police profiling, jails, group homes, foster care, etc.

Action Steps for Being an Ally
Educate Yourself by researching organizations, reading books and articles about trans and gender non-conforming people, and attending trainings and workshops.

Have Discussions with other non-transpeople about ways you can work against transphobia. Do not rely on transpeople to educate you about transphobia. Do not try to engage by discussing the latest film or book that came out about transgender people. If a trans person wants to talk to about a film or article, they will bring it up. It can be exhausting to have repeated conversations with people about trans identities without consent.

Recognize Oppression as an intersecting system of barriers that can lead to institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism. The process of learning how to be an ally to transpeople includes an understanding of how all of these forms of oppression are connected. For example, transwomen of color are disproportionately represented in prisons and jails and are more likely to be victims of harassment and violence, experiencing an intersection of all of the above listed oppressions.

Educate Others. Once you have educated yourself about transphobia, transgender issues, and how to be a good ally.

Interrupt transphobic behavior whenever you see it happening and when it is safe to do so.

Credit: Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois


Local Organizations

Broadway Youth Center
3179 N. Broadway Chicago, IL 60657

Young Women’s Empowerment Project:

Project NIA

Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois
2040 N. Milwaukee Chicago, IL 60647


Howard Brown Health Center
Sheridan Road Chicago, IL 60613

Web Resources

Gender Education and Advocacy:

IFGE—International Foundation of Gender Education, Waltham, MA:

Intersexed Society of North America:

Leading Transgender Organizations:

PFLAG's Transgender Support Network:

Sylvia Rivera Law Project:

Transgender Law Center:

TGI Justice Project:

Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits, by Loren Cameron
Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us, by Kate Bornstein
GenderQueer, edited by Riki Wilchins, Joan Nestle, and Clare Howell
Exile and Pride, by Eli Claire
Honey, Honey, Miss Thang: Being Black, Gay and On the Streets, by Leon E. Pettiway
Normal Life, by Dean Spade
Queer Injustice, by Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie, Kay Whitlock
Transgender Rights, edited by Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter
Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Rupaul, by Leslie Feinberg
Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink and Blue, by Leslie Feinberg,
Transgender Care: Recommended Guidelines, Practical Information and Personal Accounts, by Gianna E. Israel and Donald E. Tarver, II, MD
Trans Forming Families: Real Stories about Transgendered Loved Ones, by Mary Boenke
True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism for Families, Friends, Coworkers and Helping Professionals, by Mildred L. Brown


Suddenly your world becomes like a movie. Everything is intense and dramatic, a whirlwind of emotion. Your notebooks are full of doodles. Your life now has its own soundtrack, as though the songs on radio might have been written especially for you. You may find yourself stuttering, blushing, and breathless, your heart beating fast.

Crushes may last anywhere from a couple of months to a matter of seconds. But one thing is for sure: having a crush on someone can make you feel embarrassed, selfconscious, stupid and insecure – opening up a whole closest full of emotional mischief.

Unfortunately, there is little rhyme or reason why certain people are so attractive. It’s not always the most obvious people who do it for us, either. They don’t have to be fit or funny or cool or even very nice or treat us well (this is never a ‘good sign’). Your feelings can change very quickly and there is certainly no guarantee that it will last.

With a crush, there is no guarantee that:

  • they will like you back
  • they are worthy of your affections
  • they will treat you well
  • your family or friends will approve
  • they won’t ruin your street cred
  • you will live happily ever after
  • you will even like them tomorrow!

Being rejected feels horrible, but it does not mean that there is anything wrong with you. Some people just don’t fit and there isn’t always a reason for that. It does not mean that you are unattractive or uninteresting.

A few words of caution when the tables are turned: If someone has the courage to tell you that they like you and for whatever reason you don’t feel the same way, be gentle. It takes a lot of guts to open up to someone. Take it as a compliment and thank them but don’t play games and don’t be cruel.

How to Ask Someone Out

This is one of the most frequently asked questions in all Q&A pages. Some sites say, “be direct. Just ask,” others suggest pick-up lines and flirting. Those aren’t bad ideas but the most effective way is to get to know each other first.

  • Think friendship first. It’s the start of all good relationships. And if things don’t develop further, you might have a great new friend!
  • Be interested in what they have to say. Listen. Ask questions.
  • Use humor but don’t laugh at them. Laughing at yourself is okay, though. It shows that you are fun and that you recognize that you’re not perfect.
  • Think about your body language and theirs. If they are backing away and have their arms crossed things aren’t looking too hopeful!

Being in a Relationship

Being in a relationship is can be a really special feeling. At the beginning it is nice to know that someone you are attracted to feels the same way about you, wants to do nice things with you and wants to lavish their attention and affections on you and vice versa.

Relationships can happen in many different ways. Some can start out of nowhere with someone you have bumped into or met that night. Some can stem from lifelong friendships and sometimes even casual flirtations can turn into something deeper and meaningful.

In the first year of your new relationship, you may feel like you’re glowing, happy most of the time, and wanting spend all your time with your new partner. You may think they are awesome and they will feel the same about you.

As lovely as this honeymoon phase is, it doesn’t last forever. That doesn’t mean your strong feelings end. It just means that maybe the excitement and butterflies subside a little.

The three key things to make any relationship work are:

Communication: It is important that you and your partner can communicate your feelings to one and other in order to have an open and honest relationship.  It’s important to communicate expectations as well. If you want your partner to see a show with you, or go to a certain party, speak up! Don’t just assume that just because you like each other that you know what’s in the other’s head.

Negotiation: Just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean you are going to want to do the same things all of the time. If your partner doesn’t want to do what you want to do, don’t throw a fit. Sit down, talk it through, and try and find a solution that makes you both happy.

Compromise: All people are different. Just because you are now part of a couple doesn’t mean you don’t have your individual likes and dislikes. No two people agree on everything. Sometimes, if your partner has a different need or opinion, you just have to find a way to accommodate each other. As long as the accommodation is something you are happy to do, is within your boundaries, and your partner makes equal sacrifices for you, this can lead to a happy and long lasting partnership!

Being in a Safe Relationship

It’s important to remember that you do not have to be together all of the time – this goes for boyfriends or girlfriends and even best friends. There is a difference between spending time together and spending quality time together. Everyone needs time and space to breathe, and do their own thing. This time apart can feel a little scary or make people feel insecure – but you need to accept it – because it is the only way for two people to build a healthy, long-term relationship.

Losing sight of your own interests and needs is sure sign that things are out of balance. Sometimes it’s the first sign that something is going wrong in a relationship.

And things do go wrong. You may not get any warning or it may be something that has been building for a while that just doesn’t feel quite right.

You may find yourself with someone who says they care for you but they make you feel vulnerable, nervous, scared or frightened. They might physically hurt you in some way or pressure or force you to have sex, which is never ok. But it might be more subtle than that. They might check your phone or e-mail without your permission, or guilt or pressure you into showing them, get jealous, insecure, or possessive of you.  They might accuse you of cheating on them, order you around, or tell you who to hang out with or where to go. These kinds of controlling behaviors can be confusing, because it might seem like your partner’s feelings for you are so strong, they just can’t stand the idea of being apart from you for one second. It’s flattering to have someone care for you, but when it crosses the line into obsessive, controlling behavior, love gets all twisted around and becomes something else: it becomes abuse.

If you feel like you or someone you know may be in an unhealthy situation, you can take this danger assessment from the One Love Foundation to determine the risk:

If you are feeling or being treated this way, take a moment and remember: Being in this relationship is a choice. If you don’t feel you can get out of it easily because you’re frightened of the consequences then it is important that you tell someone who can protect your safety.

Do you have a trusted friend, family member or a teacher? If not there are organizations that can help you. Visit to learn more. If you need help right away, call or text the National Dating Abuse Hotline: text 'loveis' to 77054 or call 1-866-331-9474.


One Love Foundation's 'Be 1 For Change' video
and Danger Assessment mobile app download HERE:

Sex Ed Loop Blog: Need to know- healthy relationships

City of Chicago Domestic Violence Help Line 1-877-863-6338

City of Chicago Violence Prevention

City of Chicago Information for Young Adults

Arguments Happen

Sometimes when we get upset, we get angry, shout and even say things that we don’t really mean in an attempt to get a reaction or to hurt our partners. After we cool off, we sometimes feel awful for saying the things we did.

There’s nothing wrong with arguing now and then. Our lives would be boring if we agreed about everything. Having your own mind means you will occasionally disagree and sometimes even annoy each other. The key is to learn when and how to argue.  Stick to the facts, explain your feelings as calmly as you can, and be respectful. Fight fair: no name-calling, and definitely no shoving or getting physical with one another.

Everyone reacts differently when they are upset. If alcohol is involved, it is usually best to walk away and talk again later, when you are both calm and sober.

Saying Sorry

There is nothing wrong with admitting when you are wrong or have behaved badly. Put your hands up, apologize, and ask to be forgiven. It’s the loving, responsible thing to do and it shows that you are willing to learn from your mistakes. But if you and your partner find yourselves in the same situation over and over again then it may be time to take a break or walk away permanently.

Breaking Up

Everyone will experience a break-up at some point. No matter what may have happened, you’ve invested time, energy and emotion in that relationship. You’ve shared experiences and grown together. It is natural to feel some sense of loss and to feel hurt and upset by the fact that it is over, even when moving on is a positive thing.

In an ideal world when a relationship changes or comes to an end we would say our goodbyes with a kiss and a hug and promise to remain friends before moving on and continuing with our lives.

But it usually doesn’t usually work out that way. When emotions are involved it is very hard to remain calm and behave rationally. The fact is when things end, they tend to end on a negative note.

Generally one person is left and the other does the leaving. This happens because one person no longer feels the same about the other anymore. Or it could be because one partner has behaved badly or done something that is unforgivable.

Staying Safe

Sexual Violence

Sexual Violence
Sexual violence occurs in many ways. Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment are all types of sexual violence that people experience.

To better understand what types of behaviors are considered “sexual violence,” here are some examples:

  • Being forced, tricked, or manipulated to have sex
  • Being forced to look at or touch someone’s private parts
  • Being touched in a sexual way when you don’t want to be touched
  • Being forced to kiss someone
  • Being forced to look at or participate in sexual pictures or movies
  • Being forced to listen to someone talk sexually to you

When reading through these examples of sexual violence, did you notice if they have anything in common? You may have seen that all forms of sexual violence are sexual acts in which there is a lack of consent. In other words, unless you say “yes” to a sexual act, it is wrong for someone to touch you in a sexual way, make you touch them in a sexual way, have you look at sexual movies or images, or any other sexual behavior that you do not explicitly agree to participate in.

To start a conversation about what consent does (or doesn’t) look like, check this out:

To think about what it means to consent:

Without consent, any sexual act can be a form of sexual violence. If you have been in a sexual situation in which you were forced, tricked, or manipulated and you felt uncomfortable during the act, you can get help. There are many resources for those who have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused in the Chicago community, nationwide, and on the Internet.

To share the experiences of survivors of sexual violence, check out Project Unbreakable:

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you can get help. If you’d like to help spread the word about consent, there are lots of resources to help you become an advocate against sexual violence. Check out our Sexual Violence Resources section for support. (“Sexual Violence Resources” should link to Sexual Violence Resources section)

To learn more about the influence of the media on “normalizing” sexual violence, especially in the context of drinking alcohol:

Verbal Signals of Consent

What can consent sound like?

What can NONconsent sound like?



I'm sure

I'm not sure

I'm excited

I'm scared

I want to...

I want to, but...

I still want to...

I thought I wanted to, but...

That feels good

That hurts





I love you/this

I love you/this, but...

I feel good about this

I don't know how I feel about this

I'm ready

I'm not ready or not sure if I'm ready



Nonverbal Consent

Possible nonverbal signs of consent

Possible nonverbal signs of NONconsent

Direct eye contact

Avoiding eye contact

Initiating sexual activity

Not initiating any sexual activity

Actively touching someone

Avoiding touch

Comfort with nudity

Discomfort with nudity

"Open" body language, like relaxed, loose and open arms and legs, relaxed facial expressions, turning towards someone

"Closed" body language, like tense, stiff or closed arms and legs, tight or tense facial expressions, turning away from someone

An active body

"Just lying there"

Source: Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent. Heather Corinna,, 2010.

Myth & Facts Quiz

1. It’s not really rape if a victim does not resist or fight their attacker.

True False

Most women fear rape and fear alone can immobilize them.  Many women have been told to be submissive and to go along with the assailant to avoid injury or death.  Even though many women may not physically resist an attacker due in part to their upbringing and fear of violence, this does not mean they consented or were willing to go along with the attack.

2. The victim provokes rape if they dress “sexy,” act seductively, or are under the influence of drugs/alcohol.

True False

This myth takes away the criminal blame from the offender and places the responsibility on the victim.  The assailant chooses their actions, there was always a choice not commit a rape.  Actions or style of dress is NOT an invitation for rape.  Nothing a person does causes nor invites a brutal and violent attack.

3. Most sexual assaults occur in “bad” neighborhoods with high crime rates.

True False

Anyone can be raped: young, old, male or female.  Their appearance is seldom a consideration.  Rapists are not necessarily looking for attractive victims but rather vulnerable ones.  Assailants often choose victims who seem most vulnerable to attack:  acquaintances, old persons, children, partners, physically or emotionally disabled persons, substance abusers, and street persons.

4. A victim has to be beaten or have physical injuries to really have been raped.

True False

In 87% of cases, the victim was initially subdued by the assailant’s verbal threats, and by an overwhelming fear of being killed.  The fact that there are no broken bones or bruises does not indicate that a person has not been raped.  The threat of violence may cause a person to “freeze.”  In fear of their life, a person may “submit,” but this is a valid coping behavior.  This is considered part of Rape Trauma Syndrome; no response is inappropriate.

5. Rape is motivated by sudden, uncontrollable sexual urges and desires.

True False

Rape is an act of power, anger, and dominance over another person.  75%-95% of rapes are planned.  Rape not only violates a person’s body, but also their sense of safety and control over their life.

6. Women frequently lie about “rape”; there is a high rate of false reporting.

True False

Studies show that only 3% of rape reports are false, which is no higher than in reporting of other felonies.

7. About 66% of all sexual assaults are reported.

True False

Only about 10%-20% of all sexual assaults are reported.

8. It is impossible for a person to sexually assault a partner.

True False

Regardless of marital or social relationship, if a person does not consent to sexual activity, they are being sexually assaulted.  The rate of domestic violence and partner assault is about the same for both heterosexual and LGBTQ relationships.

9. Rape is committed by monstrous criminals who do not know their victims.

True False

As many as 80% of all assaults involve acquaintances.  An assailant might be someone you have seen around another person you know intimately.  It may be co-worker, a friend or a family member.

10. It is impossible to sexually assault a man.

True False

Men fall victim for the same reasons as women:  they are overwhelmed by threats or acts of physical and emotional violence.  Men are also assaulted by both strangers and acquaintances, be the assailants male or female.


Rape is a form of sexual assault where someone is forced to have sexual intercourse with someone against their will.

Many people think rape is only perpetrated by a stranger. In reality, it is more common for someone to be raped by a person he or she knows. “Acquaintance rape” is the term used to describe a rape when the victim knows the attacker. There is no legal difference between rape by a stranger and rape by an acquaintance. Either way it is a crime.

Remember, in a relationship you have the right to

  • a life without violence
  • reject unwanted attention                                                                                 
  • change your mind whenever you want to           
  • be yourself without changing to please others
  • decide whether you want physical and sexual contact
  • change a relationship when your feelings change
  • say “NO.”

Under Illinois law, consent is one thing and one thing only: a clear “YES.”

If you have been raped, do not blame yourself. There are many resources you can turn to for medical, legal, and advocacy support. Learn more at our Sexual Violence Resources page. (“Sexual Violence Resources” should link to Sexual Violence Resources section)

Sources: Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA), Acquaintance Rape (
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, After Sexual Assault (

Dating Violence

Dating Violence is a pattern of physically, sexually, verbally, and/or emotionally abusive or controlling behavior in a dating relationship.

It may involve digital communications and technologies, verbal communication, and physical interactions.

Physical Abuse is any unwanted contact with the other person’s body. It does not have to leave a mark or a bruise.

Some examples:
scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair, spitting, choking,
pushing, physical restraint, kicking, slapping

Sexual Abuse is any sexual behavior that is unwanted or that interferes with the other person’s right to say “no” to sexual advances .

Some examples:
unwanted kissing/touching
date rape
forcing someone to go further sexually than she or he wants to
unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
not letting someone use protection against STIs or birth control
forcing someone to pose for still/video images of him/herself and share them
forcing someone to wear or not wear items of clothing
recording a sexual act or nude image of someone without their consent
sending someone unsolicited and unwelcomed sexual images

Verbal/Emotional Abuse is saying or doing something to another person that causes the person to have a lower self-esteem, trying to control the person’s feelings or behaviors, and take place in real life or through digital technologies, like social networks, text messages, etc – including through online posts or digital communications that threaten, harass, or embarrass someone.

Some Examples:
name-calling and put downs                                                                             
insulting the person or her/his family or friends                                 
making racial, ethnic, or religious slurs                                                     
making unwanted comments of a sexual nature
embarrassing the person in front of others
spreading negative rumors about the person
telling the person what to do
threatening to commit suicide/expose personal information/harm a person’s friends or family
making the person feel guilty
excessive/unwanted communication

Courtesy of

Being in a Safe Relationship

It’s important to remember that you do not have to be together all of the time – this goes for boyfriends or girlfriends and even best friends. There is a difference between spending time together and spending quality time together. Everyone needs time and space to breathe, and do their own thing. This time apart can feel a little scary or make people feel insecure – but you need to accept it – because it is the only way for two people to build a healthy, long-term relationship.

Losing sight of your own interests and needs is sure sign that things are out of balance. Sometimes it’s the first sign that something is going wrong in a relationship.

And things do go wrong. You may not get any warning or it may be something that has been building for a while that just doesn’t feel quite right.

You may find yourself with someone who says they care for you but they make you feel vulnerable, nervous, scared or frightened. They might physically hurt you in some way or pressure or force you to have sex, which is never ok. But it might be more subtle than that. They might check your phone or e-mail without your permission, or guilt or pressure you into showing them, get jealous, insecure, or possessive of you.  They might accuse you of cheating on them, order you around, or tell you who to hang out with or where to go. These kinds of controlling behaviors can be confusing, because it might seem like your partner’s feelings for you are so strong, they just can’t stand the idea of being apart from you for one second. It’s flattering to have someone care for you, but when it crosses the line into obsessive, controlling behavior, love gets all twisted around and becomes something else: it becomes abuse.

If you feel like you or someone you know may be in an unhealthy situation, you can take this danger assessment from the One Love Foundation to determine the risk.

If you are feeling or being treated this way, take a moment and remember: Being in this relationship is a choice. If you don’t feel you can get out of it easily because you’re frightened of the consequences then it is important that you tell someone who can protect your safety.

Do you have a trusted friend, family member or a teacher that you can talk to? If not there are organizations that can help you. Visit to learn more. If you need help right away, text the National Dating Abuse Hotline: text 'loveis' to 77054 or call 1-866-331-9474.

You can also call the City of Chicago’s free Domestic Violence Help Line at 1-877-863-6338.

One Love Foundation's 'Be 1 For Change':

Free Danger Assessment Mobile App: Feeling unsure about your relationship, or a friend’s? Take this free quiz.
Sex Ed Loop Blog: What you need to know about healthy relationships
City of Chicago Violence Prevention: Improving Health by Promoting Peace
City of Chicago Information for Young Adults: Dating Bill of Rights
Break the Cycle: Empowering youth to end domestic violence
Love is Not Abuse: Engaging everyone in promoting healthy relationships

How to Help a Friend or Someone You Love

Remember: Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault!

Imagine a person you love has been the victim of sexual violence, they trust you, and disclose that this has happened to them. Your friend may be terrified or have feelings of helplessness, which are perfectly normal responses. Your friend needs support and time to work through her/his feelings. Even if your friend does not want to report the act of violence to the police, encourage him or her to receive medical attention as soon as possible.

What are the best ways to help a friend who is a victim of sexual violence?

Believe your friend’s experience without question.
Don’t blame your friend. Whatever the circumstances, your friend WAS NOT looking or asking to get raped.

Respect your friend’s fear.
Rapists may threaten to kill the victim if they don’t do what they are told. Many victims fear for their lives and this fear stays after the incident ends. Help your friend by finding ways to make them feel safer.

Accept your friend’s strong feelings.
Being supportive doesn’t mean you have to do something. It means accepting your friend’s feelings and providing a feeling of warmth and safety. Tolerate their moods; be there for them. Listen.

Listen without judgment or giving advice.
Try to feel for what your friend is going through. Don’t criticize their feelings or actions. Your friend did the very best she/he knew how in a deadly situation.

Take your friend seriously.
Pay attention. This will help your friend validate her/his feelings. Recovery is a process of acceptance and healing that takes time. One of the most important factors in the recovery is how supported they feel by the people around them. 

Encourage your friend to not expect too much of themselves.
Ask that they be good to himself/herself as much as possible. This means that you must not expect too much of your friends either. Life may seem dark to your friend for a while. Whatever brings some safety and simplicity to their life will help.

Stay with your friend as long as they need you.
For a while, many victims feel scared to be alone. This will pass with time, but in the meantime, be good company. Accompany your friend to receive the support that they may need, like walking them to the local rape crisis center or to the police station.

Let your friend make her/his own decision.
Do not pressure your friend into making decisions or doing things she/he isn’t ready to do. Help your friend explore all her/his options. Who your friend wants to talk to must be her/his decision

Take care of yourself.
In order to care about your friend, you may need to deal with some difficult emotions of your own. If you’re feeling rage, blame, or feelings of loss yourself, you can be most helpful to your friend by finding ways to deal with your emotions. Remember no one can protect another person at all times. If you are having a difficult time with your own feelings, it may help to talk with a counselor.


Courtesy of Rape Victims Advocates (RVA).

Male Survivors

When many people think of sexual violence, they think of it as “a woman’s problem”

As a result, sexual violence education often teaches women to protect themselves. Most education focuses on teaching men not to rape, and teaching women how ‘not to be raped’.

It is also important to recognize that men can be sexually assaulted.

Sexual violence is about one person trying to take the power away from another and taking control over her or him. In other words, sexual violence is a crime that is not motivated by sex. To hear more about rape as “a power issue,” listen to a former US Marine’s story on overcoming rape by clicking here.

If you are a victim of sexual violence, it is not your fault. No matter where you were or what you did or did not do, the only thing that causes an act of violence is a perpetrator. While studies show that many men do not report an occurrence of sexual assault, it is important for you to come forward to get the help you deserve.

Some of the reasons males do not come forward:

  • Fear that they won't be believed. When many people think of a sexual assault, they think of a man assaulting a woman and may find it hard to accept the fact that men are sexually assaulted as well.
  • Fear of being blamed You may think "if only I would have been more careful or aware?" These thoughts may lead you to believe that the attack was somehow your fault. Others may make it worse by implying thatg that if you would - or would not have done — certain things, you wouldn't have been raped.
  • Question of 'Manhood''Manhood' is often measured in terms of physical and emotional strength. Sometimes, a male survivor won't come forward because he fears that others might question his 'manhood' because of what has happened to him
  • Question of sexuality When a man is raped, it is almost always by another man, and research seems to indicate that some victims never come forward because they fear being labeled homosexual or gay, especially if the victim hasan erection or ejaculates — a physical response that can happen even if the victim is unconscious.

While many of these reasons stop men from coming forward about sexual violence, all victims deserve medical, legal, and advocacy support.

If you are a man who has experienced sexual violence, you can get help through a variety of sexual assault resources by clicking here.

Source: “Male Survivors” by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA).

Advocacy and Rights

What is advocacy?
After you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you may want someone to assist you with what happens next.    

Should you go to the hospital?                                     
Should you report the rape to the police?
Should you file criminal charges against the attacker?

The advocate is the victim’s confidential personal link. An advocate knows the workers at the hospital, police station, and courthouse. They work with these people to help the victim and their family. Most importantly, you do not have to pay for an advocate’s help.

How to Get an Advocate
There are several ways a victim or their family and friends can contact an advocate.

The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) has rape crisis centers all over the state. You can find information about each center at the ICASA website. They also have counselors who can listen and advise you. Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) also provides advocacy and counseling to those affected by rape. Call 312-443-9603 or visit the RVA website for more information. At the hospital emergency room, ask a nurse or other hospital employee to call an advocate. The advocate will come to the hospital to help the victim. Call the police to report the crime, and ask the police to call an advocate.

Advocate’s Limitations
An advocate can assist the victim in several ways; however, there are certain things that the advocate can’t do. An advocate does not:

  • influence the victim’s decision to report or file charges.
  • investigate the case or testify in the case.
  • counsel the victim

Victim’s Rights
A sexual assault victim is guaranteed rights under the Illinois Constitution and Illinois statutes. They include:

  • The right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice process.
  • The right to notification of court proceedings.
  • The right to communicate with the prosecution.
  • The right to make a statement to the court at sentencing.
  • The right to information about the conviction, sentence, imprisonment, and release of the accused.
  • The right to the timely disposition of the case following the arrest of the accused.
  • The right to be present at the trial and all other court proceedings on the same basis as the accused
  • The right to restitution, or compensation.

The Law
Sexual assault is when someone is forced into a sexual act (penetration, touching, fondling, etc.) that they didn’t want to happen (without consent).

The Illinois Criminal Sexual Assault Law defines different kinds of assaults:

  • Criminal Sexual Assault
    • the attacker used force to sexually penetrate the victim’s body.
  • Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault
    • the attacker used a weapon or threatened to kill the victim during the sexual assault.
  • Criminal Sexual Abuse
    • the attacker used force to touch the victim’s sex organs, anus, or breast.
  • Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse
    • the attacker used a weapon or threatened to kill the victim during the sexual abuse.
  • Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child
    • an adult commits sexual assault on a child under age 13

Get Help
Rape crisis centers have 24-hour-a-day hotlines where trained individuals will provide you with supportive services.

Staff at the center can also help you report the crime to police or go with you to the hospital. They can also just listen and offer you information and support.

Rape crisis services are free and confidential.

  • The Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-888-293-2080.
  • You can also contact the Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) for support at 312-443-9603 or visit their website.
  • You can also find a rape crisis center nearest you through the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA).

Source: Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA), A Guide to Advocacy Series (ICASA).

Take the Initiative

10 Things You Can Do to Stop Rape

1. Know that language is powerful.

Words that dehumanize women, frequently in a sexualized way, are common. When we describe someone as an object meant to be acted upon, and then discarded, it gets easier to treat them that way.

What you can do: Use humane and respectful language.

2. Communicate about sex.

We have a cultural myth that “good sex should be intuitive,” but the reality is that it is based on communication. Consent can never be assumed. Coercion and force are illegal. Get comfortable talking with, and listening to, your partner.

What you can do: “No” means no.

3. Speak out.

You may or may not ever have the opportunity to prevent a rape in progress. However, you will have many, many opportunities to challenge the attitudes and behaviors that are part of the larger rape culture.

What you can do:  When you see harassment, intervene.
When you hear jokes about violence against women, don’t laugh. Explain why it’s not funny.
Write letters to magazines that promote images of women as dehumanized sex objects.
Support laws that protect women from violence and help them successfully prosecute their abusers.                 

4. Support survivors.

Listen to the women and men in your life who may be survivors, and believe them. More than 1 million women are raped in America each year. Learn how to be supportive, and know your local rape crisis center where they can get resources and help. 

What you can do:  Get support yourself.

5. Give your time.

Volunteer for organizations working to end violence against women. Get further training on how to be an effective ally. Most rape crisis centers and community organizations are funded exclusively through grants and donations.

What you can do:  Support the work of local organizations such as Rape Victims Advocates (RVA) and Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (ICASA) in whatever ways you can.

6. Talk with women.

Find out what it feels like to live with the threat of rape every day. Find out how they like to be supported. Ask what they would like you to do to challenge rape.

What you can do:  Really listen.

7. Talk with men.

Find out how rape has impacted their lives. Find out how much men lose by being seen as potential rapists. Find out what other men have to say about how to change that reality. Find out how to support male survivors of rape and sexual abuse.

What you can do:  Really listen

8. Organize.

Create a men’s movement against male violence against women: start a dialogue group to examine cultural attitudes about rape, start a men’s anti-rape group, bring workshops and trainings into your school or workplace.

What you can do:  Check a local men’s or women’s center for resources and support, including MyStrength, Men Can Stop Rape, and Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP).

9. Work against all forms of oppression.

Violence against women, sexism, racism, heterosexism, and homophobia…all forms of oppression are linked. We cannot end one without challenging them all and know that every prejudice we hold injures others and limits our experience.

What you can do:  Challenge yourself to grow every dy

10. Create a new masculinity.

Be brave enough to openly value equality. Use your strength and privilege in the service of justice. Live your potential without harming others. Celebrate the construction of a new masculinity that does not depend on the dehumanization of others.

What you can do:  Find others who share your vision. You are not alone.

Courtesy of Men Can Stop Rape.

Sexual Violence Resources


Rape Victim Advocates 312-443-9603
Between Friends 773-274-5231
LifeSpan, legal & counseling 312-408-1210
Metropolitan Family Services-Midway Center, counseling 773-884-3310
Rainbow House-Beverly-Morgan Park, counseling 773-238-5411
Rainbow House-Little Village, counseling 773-521-1815
Sarah’s Inn-Oak Park, counseling 708-386-4225
Center on Halsted (LGBTQ teens), counseling 773-472-6643


National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474
Gay and Lesbian Youth Talkline 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743)
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Runaway Switchboard 1-800-621-4000
National Suicide Hotline 1-800-784-2433


City of Chicago Domestic Violence Help Line 1-877-863-6338, 1-877-863-6339 (TTY)
Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline 1-888-293-2080

Health Care Providers (with or without adult’s permission)

Broadway Youth Center 773-935-3151
Chicago Women’s Health Center 773-935-6126
Erie Teen Health Center 773-907-2331
Planned Parenthood 800-230-7526

Perpetrators of Domestic Violence

Salvation Army Family Services, teen perpetrators 773-275-6233
IL Dept. of Human Services, Partner Abuse Prevention Program 877-863-6338

Perpetrators of Sexual Violence

Center for Contextual Change, Groups for Juvenile Sex Offenders 847-676-4447 x. 300
One Hope United 847-245-6500


Scarleteen Sex education for the real world
Teen Advice Teens can write for advice and look at archives for information
National Save Students Against Violence Everywhere
Break the Cycle Resources and information
Girls Inc.                  Girls Incorporate National Resource Center
Men Can Stop Rape Encourage boys to become youth allies in stopping gender violence including dating violence and sexual assault.
Love is Respect Resources for teens on healthy relationships and offers peer support chat.
GLNH Support for LGBTQ through peer support chat and offers resources and information.
Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) Organization that includes 32 community-based sexual assault crisis centers working together to end sexual violence.