College Health: Sexual Health, Relationships, and Resources

  • Esta guía en Español
  • Young men's version of this guide

group of students

People make lots of decisions about their sexuality during college, including whether to abstain from sexual intercourse or to become/ continue being sexually active. Other sexuality issues that decisions are made about are the gender of partners, the type of contraception to use, and the intensity of the relationships. You should never let others pressure you into having sex if you don’t want to. It should always be your decision to have sex. This goes for the first time, and every time.

What do I need to know if I’m sexually active, or if I’m thinking about becoming sexually active?

  • Before you decide to have a sexual relationship, you should talk with your partner and then decide if the decision to have sex is right for you.
  • Make sure to ask about your partner’s sexual history, including if they have been exposed to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Get tested for STIs such as HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, but remember – there are other STIs too.
  • Discuss whether you or your partner plan on having sex with other people. Remember, the risk of getting an STI or a virus that can cause cancer or AIDS is increased if you or your partner have sexual intercourse with other people. The more partners, the greater the risk of getting an STI.
  • If you’re sexually active, the best way to avoid getting any STIs is to have sex with only one person who has never been exposed to an STI, and use a latex condom every time you have sex – from start to finish. Birth control pillsinjections, and IUDs do not prevent STIs. If you are going to have sex, use condoms to prevent STIs.

Talk to your sexual partner about birth control: If you’re in a sexual relationship, talk about birth control options (condoms, birth control pills, hormone injections, IUDs, implants) and also talk about what you would do if it failed. If you feel that you can’t talk to your partner about these issues, then you should rethink whether or not you should be having a sexual relationship.

Go to your college’s student health center: Find out about what methods of birth control the health center offers to students, how much they cost, and what types of counseling and services are available for young people who have either a planned or unplanned pregnancy. Make sure you receive confidential, non-judgmental services.

Here are some questions to ask at the health center:

  • What happens to the bills from my visits here or from a gynecologist in the community?
  • If I’m covered by my parent’s insurance, will they find out about examinations and tests I’ve had?
  • What if I need birth control?
  • Can you tell me what happens with my lab test results? Who gets the results?
  • How do I get tested for STIs or HIV?
  • What if you find out that I have an STI? Will you tell anyone else?
  • What if you find out that I’m pregnant? Will you tell anyone else?
  • Is there any information that you must tell my parents?
  • What happens if I have a big problem and need help telling my parents?

Emergency contraception: If your birth control method fails, (for example; the condom broke, or you didn’t use one) you have an option called emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after pill”, or “EC”.

Emergency contraception (EC): There are two effective ways to prevent pregnancy if you have unprotected sex, which include: getting an IUD (Paraguard) or taking an EC pill.

  • Can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex
  • Emergency contraception (EC) is a backup method of birth control for preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex. Even though it’s commonly called the “morning-after pill” it can actually be used within 5 days (120 hours) of unprotected intercourse. Most EC works better the sooner you take it.
  • Paraguard IUD- must be placed in a women’s uterus by a health care provider. It is the most effective form of emergency contraception if taken within 120 hours or 5 days after unprotected sex.
  • Plan B One-Step® (there are many generic pills which include Next Choice One Dose™, AfterPill™and MyWay®and TakeAction™) are available over-the-counter (without a prescription), for young women age 17 and over. These EC pills work better if taken within 3 days of unprotected sex.
  • The brand of EC called Ella™ (Ulipristal acetate) requires a prescription from a health care provider.
  • EC is usually available from Planned Parenthood, other family planning clinics, or your college health center. Find out if it can be given to you in advance, just in case you need it.


Relationships and Abuse

Abuse in a relationship can be physical, emotional, and mental.

  • Your partner should never threaten you or hurt you, and should neverthreaten to harm or harm any of your possessions or people that are important to you.
  • You should never feel afraid of your partner or controlled by him or her.
  • Your partner should never make you feel worthless or bad about yourself.

If your partner does any of these things, get help and get out of the relationship. If your partner abuses you, they probably will never stop. You will be much better off without an abusive partner! You deserve to be treated with love and respect.

What should I do if I am in an abusive or violent relationship?

If you’re in an abusive relationship, you should talk to an adult that you trust, someone from your college counseling service, or call a domestic abuse hotline. These people can help you with your concerns. If you ever feel that you’re in danger when you’re with your partner, or after you’ve broken up with your partner, call 911 and explain your situation. If you break up with your partner and fear that they may come after you, stay at a safe place where they can’t contact you. You can talk to the police about what you can do to legally protect yourself from abuse.

Sexual assault: Unfortunately, sexual assault and rape does happen at college. You may have heard about date-rape drugs being used on college campuses. These are drugs that can be dropped into your drink at a bar or at a party if you leave your drink unattended, or when you are distracted. Believe it or not, more than half of all rapes are committed by someone that the victim knows or goes on a date with. So, when you are getting to know a person, be careful where you go and what situations you put yourself in.

Protect yourself against date-rape drugs:

  • Don’t drink something that you didn’t open yourself
  • Don’t share drinks with anyone
  • Don’t drink from a punch bowl
  • Don’t leave your drink some place and come back and drink from it later

Protect yourself from being sexually assaulted:

  • Walk in well-lit areas with a friend if you are out at night
  • Use the campus security escorts available at your college. Most colleges will provide an escort if you have to walk back to your dorm late at night.
  • Make sure that someone such as a friend or roommate knows where you are when you go out.

How do I know if I was raped or sexually assaulted?

The definition of rape is any penetration into your vagina by a finger, a penis, or other object that happens without your consent. It is also illegal if someone touches your vagina with their mouth or penetrates you anally without your consent. Keeping silent does not equal consent. Any of these things which are done without your consent are wrong and illegal!

What should I do if I am sexually assaulted or raped?

It’s important to get medical help right away. If you are sexually assaulted or raped, you should go right to the student health center or nearest hospital emergency or urgent care unit to get checked out. Someone there will help you contact your campus or town police if you haven’t already called them. Reporting a sexual assault or rape is important so that the person that did this to you will be caught and won’t be able to do it to someone else. You shouldn’t shower or change your clothes before you are examined if possible, so that no evidence is destroyed.

Reporting a rape or assault: Many people have a hard time reporting rape or sexual assault because they are embarrassed; in denial of what happened, just want to forget what happened, or think they caused it. It’s very important to talk about all these feelings and everything that you went through with an experienced counselor. Ask who you can talk to at your college counseling center or student health center. If you need a service that your college doesn’t offer, ask for some names and contact information for counselors or groups in the community. Some colleges also offer group sessions for victims of rape and sexual assault. Also, decide who in your family or among your friends can be supportive, and talk with them as well.

If you want to speak with someone confidentially, over the phone, there are hotlines listed in the resource section. There are resources and people who can help you get through this traumatic experience. Always remember that the rape or assault was NOT your fault.