One of my favorite quotes I have discovered while working in the social services sector is, "We All Have A Story To Tell."
This couldn't be more true each day. I learn about individuals, their past lives, their families, their hopes and dreams, their fears. Unfortunately, there are an extreme amount of horror stories that come through that most privileged individuals don't think of on a daily basis. Poverty, drug addicition, neglect, abuse, molestation and rape... the list is extensive. Sometimes, I catch myself thinking just how easy some people have it, and just how much these youth have managed to rise above.
Tonight, I was unfortunate enough to get a call stating that an eight-year-old girl was coming forward with stories of how she had been molested by her own father. Sadly, these stories are not shocking anymore. The amount of rape, incest, molestation, and abuse that happens is incredibly depressing and all too real. Imagine the amount of courage it must take to speak of what happened? To have to relive those thoughts and feelings over and over and over again. All I can think is that this child will never be able to have the first choice to love someone in the most intimate of ways.
To think that we live in a society that values one's virginity as highly as it does and then pair it with the fact that so many youth are survivors of sexual misconduct seems contradictory. "Save yourself for your husband or wife"....... but what happens when you are eight years old and that sanctity of love-making is taken away from you? You aren't even allowed a choice. You are tarnished in the eyes of religion. Do those who think women ask for rape also think that eight-year-olds are asking for it, too? Was it because her Frozen pajamas were too revealing and she should have known not to wear them?
Due to our society's focus on religion, on virginity, and the sanctity of marriage, the one who is punished life-long is the survivor, not the rapist. "Your body is your temple." But what happens when it has been invaded so many times that you feel like it is not your own? That you'd rather not even have that aspect of yourself, and then society shoves the sexuality of women down your throat so you are even more hyper-conscious of it than ever before.
Yet we don't change our society's ways of viewing these topics. We let it be. We close our eyes and our minds to the "scary bad things" that happen to "only a select few" in our culture. We forget that the majority of the kids in foster care aren't here because they are bad kids, they are here because parents have failed at parenting, which means us as a society have failed at teaching the correct values.
-Instead of "Don't get raped" it should be, "Don't rape." Period.
-Masculinity should not be based on violence or sexual prowess.
-Virginity is a social construct. You are just as valuable if you aren't a "virgin."
-Trauma surrounds us, be aware of triggers.
-Abstinence-only education is ignorant. Some people haven't been afforded the ability to make sexual choices like certain privileged populations. Do not alienate the youth who may have experienced sexual trauma. Teach youth how to be safe during sexual interactions to reduce unintended pregnancies (which may help reduce the number of youth in the foster system) and the transmission of STIs.