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PURPOSE OF THE POLICY:
These Policies and Procedures on Sexuality have been developed in order to ensure the protection and the rights of our members and employees. These policies set out guidelines for all Vita Community Living Services and Mens Sana Families for Mental Health (VITA) staff supporting adults within our programmes. For the purpose of this policy, adults are defined as any person age 18 or older.
The purpose of this policy is to ensure a coherent and consistent approach is applied when dealing with adults who receive service and supporting their personal relationships and sexuality within the agency. It seeks to ensure a proper balance between an individual's rights, their physical and emotional safety, and the rights and responsibilities of others including VITA staff.
This policy aims to:
- Provide VITA staff with relevant information about rights and responsibilities when adults within our programmes develop personal relationships and explore their sexuality
- Give clear guidance on how VITA staff should respond in specific situations and what support you should receive from VITA
- Increase your confidence and competence in dealing with situations at work relating to relationships and sexuality
When this policy is used consistently by VITA staff, we expect that Adults within our
programmes will be:
- Supported to achieve their rights to have relationships and explore their sexuality in a safe environment
- Able to access appropriate information and services about relationships and sexual health
- Treated with respect and dignity
Members' Parents/Guardians will be:
- Confident that good decisions are helping to keep their loved ones safe
- Clear that VITA staff are expected to support the rights of the person they care for
- Able to access information, advice and support about this policy
It is the expectation of VITA that all employees will read, understand and abide by the guidelines stated in this document.
Please raise any questions you may have in regards to this document immediately to the Executive Director, your Program Director or Human Resources department for clarification.
Upon completion of reading these Policies and Procedures, you will be asked to sign a form stating you have read, understand, and will abide by the guidelines stated in VITA's Sexuality Policy.
VITA recognizes the significance of intimate personal relationships and of sexual expression for all people. It is the policy of VITA to promote the rights of adults within our programmes to develop and enjoy the personal and/or sexual relationships of their choice.
These rights include:
- The right to have opportunities to love and be loved and to engage in consenting relationships, whether sexual or not
- The right to education and information about their own bodies
- The right to education and information about personal relationships and sexuality presented in a manner appropriate to their individual needs
- The right not to be sexually exploited
- The right to opportunities to develop legally acceptable relationships
- The right to information and help with contraception and the maintenance of sexual health, including the right to be included in all sexual screening programs
- The right to develop consenting intimate relationships, marry, enter into a civil partnership or cohabit and to receive support in maintaining such partnerships
- The right to have their sexual orientation respected
- The right to be treated with respect and dignity
- The right to information and advice about the responsibilities of parenthood, and support when deciding whether to become a parent or not
- The right to support during pregnancy and the subsequent upbringing of children (where their capacity to provide proper care can be demonstrated)
- Adults within our programmes have sexual feelings, needs and identities and have the right to privacy and sexual expression
When enabling people to exercise any of these rights, VITA recognize the need for planned, multi-disciplinary approaches, properly discussed and recorded.
Nothing in this policy shall be construed as removing any statutory rights or obligations..
Throughout this document, the words "sexual relationship" and "sexuality" are intended to include heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transgender relationships and expressions of sexuality.
CONFIDENTIALITY & PRIVACY:
Adults with disabilities are entitled to confidentiality regarding all aspects of their relationships and sexuality, unless there is evidence of abuse or significant concern about the possibility of abuse. Information will not be shared without their consent, unless there are issues of personal safety. In that case, they must always be told that confidentiality cannot be maintained.
Personal and sexual relationships and individual expressions of sexuality require access to private space, which must be offered and respected. In residential establishments, public and private areas should be clearly identified. Day programs are, by definition, public places in their entirety.
SEXUALITY EDUCATION AND TRAINING:
- VITA abides by the principles that all adults with disabilities or with mental health needs and all staff working with them should be provided with education and training in all areas of sexuality.
- Individuals served by VITA who may require education in sexuality as identified by themselves, their families or primary support workers will be instructed, as needed and as specified in an Individual Service Plan. The technical and social dimensions of sexuality to be presented will be in keeping the organizational premises, values and principles.
- VITA will determine the need for and seek as appropriate the resources of other professional including a socio-sexual consultant, physician, and/or therapist to develop or provide instruction to individuals and staff requiring education on sexuality.
PROCEDURES: POLICY GUIDELINES
Standard(s): Beliefs and assumptions held by the Agency, which support the need, development and implementation of the policy.
Implementation: Action steps expected by the Agency, which support the maintenance of the policy.
1. Sexuality, Abuse and Education
Standard: All people have the option and right to obtain accurate, current and factual education regarding relationship and sexuality. The denial of sexual education to people with disabilities has contributed to abuse and misinterpretation of behaviour.
Implementation: VITA will provide classes, which address not only sexual relationships, but also relationships of all kinds. Subjects covered will include interpersonal skills - including but not limited to communication, decision-making, assertiveness, and refusal skills - sexual health and hygiene, and information related to sexuality and specific disabilities. Classes will also include education to help decrease the risk of victimization and abuse and reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy and disease. Classes will work to increase the understanding of people with disabilities regarding pro-social and pro-sexual behaviour in order to educate them about actions that can be misinterpreted as behavior with a criminal intent. Additional resources and services will be accessed when necessary.
Standard: Any relationship, including a sexual relationship, must be consensual; that is, it must involve the willing participation of those in the relationship. A person's ability to understand the nature of sexual activity and the implications or consequences of that activity is a key component of consent. Due to the varying levels of cognitive ability, as well as the fact that people with disabilities have been denied sex education and have had few typical opportunities for a range of social and sexual activities, questions may arise concerning ability to give informed consent in social/sexual situations.
Implementation: VITA will address the issue of relationship consent through education and training within the curriculum to both people receiving and providing services. Additional resources and services will be accessed when necessary.
Standard: Pursuing relationships of choice is a basic human right.
Implementation: VITA will provide education through the curriculum and direct support for safe, legal and consensual relationships. Additional services and resources will be accessed when necessary.
4. Sexual Orientation
Standard: People have the right to be in consensual relationships of choice with those of the same or opposite gender. Although sexual orientation is often subject to divergent attitudes, all individuals need to be able to discover and express who they are free from external pressures, prejudices and discrimination. Regardless of orientation or gender, everyone has a right to intimacy within a consensual relationship.
Implementation: VITA will provide education through the curriculum and direct support for the expression of sexuality within a consensual relationship regardless of orientation. Additional resources and services will be accessed when necessary.
5. Masturbation and Self-Stimulation
Standard: Masturbation is a natural sexual exploration of one's own body that is acceptable when done in a safe, private place. An understanding of privacy, appropriateness, and gentleness is essential. Although people with disabilities are often misinformed about masturbation, and have been punished for practicing this form of sexual expression, everyone is entitled to an atmosphere of comfort and calm regarding this private sexual behaviour.
Implementation: VITA will support safe and private opportunities for masturbation.
Additional resources and services will be accessed when necessary.
6. Sexual Contact including Sexual Intercourse
Standard: Sexual contact and intercourse - defined as any physical contact between people that involves genital contact, or contact with breasts or buttocks, including oral, anal and vaginal sex - is a right of consenting adults regardless of sexual orientation, creed, color or disability. A sexually intimate relationship is recognized as an exciting and fulfilling time, and a significant developmental and lifestyle marker. With this experience comes the obligation to make responsible decisions.
Individuals should be fully informed and able to consent before they begin a sexual relationship. Unwanted pregnancy, disease and abuse are all legitimate concerns related to sexual contact. However, these risks should not automatically preclude individuals from experiencing sexual contact. Providing education and experience regarding sexuality and relationships will help those who have historically been denied access to both undertake responsible decisions.
Implementation: VITA will provide education and support through the curriculum to support healthy, consensual sexual contact. Additional resources and services will be accessed when necessary.
7. Pregnancy Prevention
Standard: For those who choose to engage in heterosexual behaviour, pregnancy prevention is a critical issue. Everyone has a right to choose to use birth control options as a way of preventing pregnancy. Implementation: VITA will provide education regarding the importance of pregnancy prevention, and support the birth control method of choice for individuals through accessing medical and/or family planning services.
Standard: The decision to become a parent and raise a child must be made with an understanding of the financial, emotional, and time commitments involved. The parent(s) should also be aware of the risks involved if these commitments are not met. However, having a disability does not necessarily mean that a person cannot be a responsible parent.
Implementation: VITA will provide education, counselling and support surrounding the decision of an individual woman with regard to pregnancy. Additional resources and services will be accessed as necessary. We will also provide similar information to any partner of the pregnant woman with regard to their role and responsibilities. VITA however, is not licensed to provide support to individuals under the age of 18.
9. Sexually Transmitted Infections and AIDS
Standard: All those who are sexually active are at risk for Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) and have the right to education, information and resources to protect themselves.
Implementation: People with STI's - known diseases that can be transmitted through sexual contact and/or exchange of bodily fluids- and/or HIV will not be subject to any discrimination. VITA supports the use of condoms and dental dams as safe-sex practices. VITA will provide education within the curriculum. Additional resources and services will be accessed when necessary.
10. Co-Habitation/ Marriage/Union
Standard: Everyone has the right to have the opportunity for consensual live-in partnership with person of their choice. This is a significant developmental and lifestyle marker and one of the most important decisions a person can make.
Implementation: VITA will provide education through the curriculum regarding sexuality and relationships to help people undertake safe and healthy decisions regarding the long-term partnerships in their lives. Additional resources and services will be accessed if necessary.
Standard: A broad range of sexually explicit material is available. Therefore, adults may need assistance in accessing material that is enjoyable but does not present sexual violence or illegal activity.
Implementation: VITA will provide support to an adult requesting access to use and own any legal erotic materials if they are used responsibly and privately, and without the potential for criminal behaviour.
Standard: Pornography is considered illegal items, photographs, literature, or media that involves the depiction of sexual images or activities intended to promote violence, abuse or illegal actions, and will not be allowed on VITA property. Material depicting children or violence against women or others will be considered pornographic.
Implementation: Notwithstanding the right of self-determination of individuals, pornographic material will be removed from VITA property. Individuals will not be reimbursed for any pornographic material that is removed.
13. Abuse, Harassment and Exploitation
Standard: Everyone has a right to be free from abuse, coercion, exploitation and harassment. People with disabilities are recognized as one of the most victimized group in society, with those providing care the primary abusers. People with disabilities must be made aware of their rights to a safe place to live and to be supported by respectful VITA staff. They must also learn how to understand and report abuse.
Implementation: VITA will provide education and support through the curriculum to you and to VITA staff to address potential abuse, harassment and exploitation. Additional resources and services will be accessed if necessary.
14. Staff-Individual Contact/Boundaries
Standard: Touch and informal conversation may be easily misinterpreted by the people directly involved and/or observers. Understanding physical and emotional boundaries helps to ensure that people will develop and maintain effective relationships. This understanding also helps people recognize potentially unsafe contact and avoid behavior that may be misinterpreted.
Implementation: People providing services will model socially acceptable touch and speech in every situation. Sexual contact between those providing and those receiving services is prohibited at all times. VITA will provide education and support through curriculum. Additional resources and service will be accessed if necessary.
Standard: Everyone is entitled to privacy regarding their body and their personal space. This is critical to their mental and emotional well-being; and for understanding and maintaining safe and healthy distance from others.
Implementation: VITA will provide education within the curriculum and direct staff support to ensure privacy.
16. Designated VITA Staff
Standard: Everyone should have someone to communicate with when there is a need who is trusted, safe, informed and concerned; and who is compelled to provide effective problem-solving support. This is especially important for people with disabilities who often do not have natural supports to fill this role.
Implementation: VITA will train Designated Staff at each team to provide accurate information and support related to general areas of relationship and sexuality. Access to Designated Staff will also reduce the risk of sharing private and personal information with people with whom they are unfamiliar. Designated Staff will provide support limited to their scope of knowledge and will refer the individual to seek additional resources and services as needed.
17. Sexual Self-Advocacy
Standard: Everyone has the right to advocate for themselves in areas that impact their lives. Relationships and intimacy are two critical areas in which people have the right to speak for themselves to get their needs met.
Implementation: VITA will support an individual's right and need to speak for themselves concerning these subjects in any situation. Education will be provided through the curriculum; support will be provided through VITA and direct service staff. Additional resources and services will be accessed if necessary.
18. Guardianship STAFF
Standard: Guardianship may be necessary when a person cannot make safe, responsible decisions on their own. Effective guardianship involves the participation of the person to the highest degree possible when decisions are being made about the person's life or well being.
Implementation: VITA supports people in securing competent and responsive guardians to help them make informed decisions if this becomes necessary to ensure the health and safety of the individual.
This policy will be reviewed annually by management.
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