Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pointing Fingers

Immediately following Elizabeth Smart’s remarks at a John’s Hopkins human trafficking forum on Wednesday May 1, the internet erupted in criticism of the Church and it’s instruction on virtue and chastity. In a way that ignored the premise of her comments, accusations filled the blogosphere that teaching abstinence before marriage is damaging to women who have been the victims of sexual assault . 

 Jay Evensen, Associate Editor of the Deseret News editorial page responded.
“Two issues are at stake here. One is consensual premarital sex, particularly as engaged in by teenagers (Smart was 14 when she was abducted). The other, more relevant one has to do with rape, sexual coercion and its relationship to chastity and the worth of a soul. Don’t confuse the two.”
“The problem wasn’t the way she had been instructed about chastity, it was the lack of instruction about how rape is a crime of violence and not a reflection in any sense on the victim. It was, as she said, a lack of training that it is OK to fight back and that no one can steal your self-worth.”

Well then, why didn’t the Church instruct her properly? Why didn’t the Church make sure she knew these things so that when she heard an unfortunate object lesson about chewing gum she was able to sort the truth from error?

This was my knee-jerk reaction to the articles I read and then I began to do a little research. Here are just three examples of an overwhelmingly consistent message.


From under the topic of abuse:
“Victims of abuse should be assured that they are not to blame for the harmful behavior of others. They do not need to feel guilt. If they have been a victim of rape or other sexual abuse, whether they have been abused by an acquaintance, a stranger, or even a family member, victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sexual sin.”
For the Strength of Youth:
“Victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sin and do not need to repent. If you have been a victim of abuse, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult, and seek your bishop’s counsel immediately. They can support you spiritually and assist you in getting the protection and help you need. The process of healing may take time. Trust in the Savior. He will heal you and give you peace.”
From the official leadership handbook:
“Parents have primary responsibility for the sex education of their children. Teaching this subject honestly and plainly in the home will help young people avoid serious moral transgressions. To help parents teach this sensitive and important information, the Church has published A Parent’s Guide.
The finger I had pointed at the Church found itself turned right around and aimed directly at me.  

Why haven’t I taught my children about this subject effectively? Do I really think that my eight-year-old's Primary teacher should talk to her about sexual exploitation on Sunday? Should my teenage sons be gaining all they know on abuse from their Young Men’s leader?

Absolutely not. That is my obligation as a parent to teach my kids about these difficult and tender subjects. It is my duty to prepare them for the possibility of terrible things. We live in a darkening world where so many people are subjected to appalling situations at the hands of evil people. I cannot turn the education of my child over to the Church. That is not its purpose. God called me to that important task. I’m responsible.

Far too many well-meaning and good parents are shirking their duty in the home. It is understandable, I don’t want to even consider that something awful might happen to one of my kids and it is an uncomfortable topic to talk about. But the safety of a warm, trusting, and loving home it is the only place these lessons can be learned effectively. We are accountable to God to create that home and teach the vital lessons.

So instead of hurling stones at the Church let’s take a closer look at what is being taught or ignored in our own homes. Are we teaching our kids the truths that will protect and comfort them when the trials of their lives come up? Or are we shoving that responsibility off on someone or something else? Are we doing enough to build the loving and trusted relationships that will bring them to us in times of need?

In my case I can do better. How about you?



1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. This subject has been on my mind for the last couple of days, as I have read other articles that spun off of her original comments and ran amok with them, and used it as an excuse to bash religion and abstinence and morality and so forth. It doesn't matter to them that the church actually has made several statements on the victims of sexual assault, but it sure does matter to me. I find myself tucking these little bits of information away for the time when I need to talk to my own kids about it, or when there is an opportune time in YW for me to make a comment or two for the benefit of those girls whose parents may never get beyond the very basics. I know that's how my parents were, bless them. Thankfully, I have not had to learn these things the hard way, but maybe I can help my children and others in case the unthinkable does happen. I love that you are unafraid of tackling even the difficult subjects.


Comments are the bee's knees! Thanks for sharing.

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