By Chelsea Wojes Friday, October 18
I’ll never forget my experience of shadowing schools in an inner city, public school system. On my first day of touring, I visited an elementary school which had kindergarten through 6th grade. The team of mentors I was with were excited to start another school day, but also very prepared in a sense I couldn’t quite follow. It wasn’t until I got to the front of the school, where we greeted the kids as they walked in, that I understood why their excitement was corralled in such a manner. Security guards flanked the front doors, and a very large metal detector and table for examining bags surrounded it. “When did I enter the airport?” I questioned myself. The table for checking bags and the security guards were standard, but the metal detector was a new addition after a child stabbed a security guard with a three inch knife a few weeks earlier. This was not how I pictured this day would begin.
As a middle class white girl from Northern Michigan, where diversity is classified as your religion not racial ethnicity, and everyone knew everyone, I had never experienced any type of safety security check save for airplane travel. The most tragic of things that happened in town were car accidents or maybe an occasional break in. But here, I simply couldn’t believe that people needed paid security in a school. The day got more bizarre. After escorting a few girls to the bathroom and ensuring they went in one by one (again, a “safety normality”), I was told by a fellow mentor that one of the girls had been out of school for a few days and needed extra help catching up on homework. I asked if she was ill, and the mentor replied “Kind of… We had a pregnancy scare with her.” I quietly asked, “Um, how old is she?” “Twelve” she replied.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t figure out a single reason as to why she would be involved in sexual acts of any kind at such a young age. How was this possible? I was stunned for the rest of the day and I silently cried for her on my way home that day.
I share this story because of a new study done by the CDC which surveyed youth and their sexual activity. According to an article by NPR called “Many Teens Admit to Coercing Others into Sex”, nine percent of teens and young adults age 14-21, said they had “kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want them to. Fifty percent of those surveyed said they first forced someone to have sexual activity when they were 16. By age 18, girls had become much more involved in preying on others, to the point where they were almost as likely to be perpetrators as were boys. Three-quarters of the victims were in a romantic relationship with the perpetrator.” This information comes from the CDC survey which was conducted in 2010 and 2011. They surveyed 1,058 teenagers and young adults, and when asked who was to blame, half of those who admitted to raping someone also stated it was the victims fault. Indeed, there two sides to every story.
This startling information, though not a census of the whole and certainly not without some flaw, is worth taking seriously. The coercion of the victims was not merely physical, either. Psychological guilt plays a major role in the act of rape, more so than physical violence or drinking. This begs the question: What kind of guilt are 16 year olds (or younger) using against their peers? Would this be considered a type of bullying? Sexual-guilt bullying, perhaps? How do we fight against this type of coercion in such young adults? Education is key. Certainly, as a Catholic, I would teach my children about the respect and dignity of every human being, and specifically address the issue of peer pressure with relation to the physical body. But there’s a time when what you teach your children gets put to the test. I have a feeling the twelve year old who had the pregnancy scare, had little to no teaching about sex or if she did, she was pressured to a point where she felt she had to. Perhaps there is even some mixed psychology of her own if she perceives sex as something which she should want to do at such a young age. Regardless of the reasons to which these young people get involved in rape or sex, we need to understand that we are responsible for our children and to an extent, some of the choices they make. The article makes a faint stance at this point: ‘Parents could say, “‘If you have to convince your partner, maybe that’s not the right way to have sex.’ Even simple messages like that are important.” ‘
From the Catholic stance, you’ve really missed the point. If it’s not Total, Free, Faithful or Fruitful – it isn’t sex as it was made to be. We are responsible to teach our children more than the bare minimum. We need to be teaching them to respect the body of each and everyone, respect the God given life, and learn how to not be subservient to a culture which allows such a beautiful gift to be thrown away like garbage. Bottom line: we need to start talking about sex.
You can find the NPR article here.
You can find resources to Theology of the Body for Teens here.
Chelsea Wojes – A professed Catholic convert and Aquinas College alumna, Chelsea hails from Traverse City but has found her home in Grand Rapids. She works for St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and confesses to working towards homesteading and using social media for good, not evil.