Elizabeth Smart discusses abstinence education, pointing out that it may make rape victims feel dirty. Smart was kidnapped at knife point from her home at the page of 14. She was released nine months later after being subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
Smart spoke out against teaching abstinence during a human trafficking forum at Johns Hopkins University. Referring to her conservative Mormon upbringing, and a particularly strict teacher, Smart explained why a woman being held as a sex slave may not fight to break free.
As reported by CSMonitor.com, Smart explains that after she was raped, she felt like a piece of used chewing gum. As a teacher once used the reference, Smart compared herself, after the rape, as having been chewed up and having little value.
Smart continues, pointing out how the abstinence education may have contributed to her reluctance to fight for her freedom:
“Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
Smart suggests that parents and educators may better serve children by teaching them that having sex, particularly being raped, does not make them worthless. She states that children should be told that they “will always have value and nothing can change that.”
In an attempt to help other families, Smart started the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. The foundation works to prevent children from being victimized, educate children, and rescue those who have been abducted.
Part of the foundations is focused on radKIDS, which teaches safety. Rather than simply telling children to be safe, the radKIDS program focuses in proactively training children to respond to violence, abuse, and bullying.
As stated at radKIDS.org, the program involves a “hands-on, activity-based, physical skill development program.” The children are taught how to avoid, react to, or escape from dangerous situations at the hands of others.
Smart was certainly traumatized by her kidnapping and rape, but she has used the experience to help others who may face a similar situation. She points out that abstinence education may make rape victims feel dirty or bad. Teaching children unconditional love will let them know they are valued, no matter what happens.