Watch this video. It's amazing.
***trigger warning: sexual abuse:
There are innumerable things that suck about being a sexual abuse survivor, but one of the suckiest is that nobody wants to talk about it. I mean, seriously? Eew. Sexual abuse is easily kept secret because it's embarrassing to talk about. It's even easier to talk about physical abuse than it is to talk about sexual abuse. If you tell someone that your brother and his friend locked you inside his basement bedroom and beat the shit out of you when you were five, they offer sympathy and ask questions to deepen their understanding of the incident. Oh my goodness! How awful! What did your parents do when they found out?
If you tell someone that your brother and his friend locked you inside his basement bedroom and fucked the shit out of you when you were five, they become silent. Who blames them? They don't know what to say. Because, really, what do you say to that kind of horrible information? There is no guidebook that offers ideas on what you can say in return when someone drops a heavy load of traumatic memories onto your conversation. That's what paid professionals are for.
I always up the awkwardness factor whenever anyone asks the age at which I lost my virginity. I never know what to say. Was I five? Technically, yes. That's not fair, in our culture that shines its approving gaze upon virgins as if their pristine adherence to abstinence only education makes them something special. Not just special. Pure.
I don't know why, but this is a topic that comes up a lot in Americans' conversations: virginity. It's such a big deal for some reason I don't understand. Our society is so weird about sex. Sex is relegated to something both holy and profane. We are taught from a young age that sex is dirty unless we are married, our hands slapped away from our genitals. No, no! No touching your privates. That word, no. We shout it at our kids, but we don't teach them how to use it. Somehow we forget to tell our sons and daughters that the word no is a perfectly reasonable answer if you want it to be. It's OK to say no to your older siblings and their friends. It's OK to say no to anybody.
And, when you're mature enough to understand what giving consent means, it's OK to say yes.
Girls who like to have sex are not sluts. Girls who decide to have sex before they get married, and for that matter women who decide to never get married, they are normal, healthy human beings. It's normal to want to have sex. It's not normal to force someone to have sex with you if they don't want to. These are the things we need to teach our children.
It's hard to talk about sex with our kids. But it's important. Keeping kids in the dark about sex leads to unwanted pregnancies, diseases, and abuse.
It breaks my heart to hear Elizabeth Smart talk about the way her sex ed teacher talked about girls who have sex before marriage. Chewed up piece of gum.
"I'm that chewed up piece of gum," she said. Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped and sexually abused when she was fourteen. And yet, by her teacher's standards, through no fault of her own, Smart is a chewed up piece of gum.
See how stupid that is? Do you see why we need to share our stories of abuse? You're not alone. I feel that way, too, feels really good to someone used to hiding behind her shield of secrets.