A new data map outlines the rates of sexual activity for the state's youth — including violent and non-consensual sex — and underscores the troubling disparity between rural and urban Oregon.
Among public school 11th-graders, 14 percent to 15.5 percent of pupils in rural areas such as Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam and Union counties say they have been physically forced to have sex.
That rate drops to 6.3 percent in Multnomah County, 7.3 percent in Clackamas County and just 3.9 percent in Washington County.
"We often talk about problems, but we have a solution sitting right here in Oregon," said Shelia Johnson, a youth special health coordinator. "Sex Ed is a solution."
Johnson said today's youth are aware of these issues, so the uptick in reporting does not necessarily mean more sexual violence is occurring.
The newly released data, compiled since 2017 by the Oregon Health Authority and state Department of Education using results from the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey, is now available to the public in the online-based Oregon Sexual Violence Prevention Resource Map.
While the chart shows a decline in teenage pregnancy statewide, a finding that corresponds with national trends, the data indicates that rural and coastal students are having sex earlier than those living in the Portland metro area.
The percentage of 11th-graders who report having had sex at least once ranges from 49 percent to 57.3 percent in Douglas, Coos, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Harney, Grant, Union, Gilliam, Sherman, Wasco and Lincoln counties.
For comparison, only 36.8 percent of Multnomah County 11th-graders say they have engaged in sexual intercourse. It's 35.1 percent in Washington County and 39.9 percent in Clackamas.
The state agencies say that 20 percent of all female students and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender have been pressured to participate in unwanted sexual activity.
The data map was funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's really a tool for local use to assess what their priorities can be in terms of preventing sexual violence, especially among youth," said Matt Laidler, a reasearch analyst for the Oregon Health Authority.
Find out more:
Review the results compiled in the Oregon Sexual Violence Prevention Resource map here.