Amidst the crazy, incredible news yesterday where three missing women were found to have been captive for up to 10 years, my mind kept going back to Elizabeth Smart and a news story about remarks she made before the news in Cleveland broke, when she said that abstinence-only education hurts women.
That wasn’t exactly how she said it, but it was her point. She said that while captive and living through being raped daily, she was unmotivated to leave because she felt worthless. She remembered a chewed gum analogy used by a teacher and she thought that she was the chewed gum no one would want. She thought she was garbage. If you have no value, then what would have been the point of leaving?
Elizabeth Smart is exactly the right person to fight this battle. She has an incredibly sympathetic story, one that scares even the most conservative, pro-abstinence families. The poor girl was asleep in her bed when kidnapped. Her message can help let women of all ages know they are of value and what happens to you isn’t you.
Hopefully it will sway the opinion of the abstinence-only education crowd, but the cynical part of me thinks that abstinence-only is about bringing shame, regardless of whether to have sex was your decision or not. You don’t fit the purity mold, so you are out.
Like most people, I’m curious to know more about the three women in Cleveland and how they survived. One of them eventually fought for freedom, which lead to freedom for all three. Much like Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard was rescued thanks to outsiders questioning and pursuing her situation. The lesson is to remind girls to fight, no matter what has happened or how long it has been because they have value and are important. This is’t a message that can wait until high school, as 44 percent of rape victims are under age 18, and notably, many of the girls mentioned – Smart, Dugard, and one of the three in Cleveland, were aged 14 and under. (Dugard was 11). Obviously not all rape victims are kidnapped and held hostage, but this begs the question of whether abstinence-only education discourages the reporting of any sexual assault. If you feel shame, you’re not going to share what happened, especially with authorities.
Elizabeth Smart is trying to change the world. I hope her message is heard.
Photo by ABC News