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While the beginning of the school year was met with uncertainty about whether or no we would be allowed into schools, we have been in schools and extra-curricular groups every month so far this school year!

Prevention is a difficult thing to measure.  It's almost like playing the “what-if game”.  What if we weren’t in the schools?  What if we just left our students be?  What if we relied on parents educating their children about how to prevent sexual abuse?  Are we really making a difference anyway?   There’s no definitive way to know whether our Sexual Risk Avoidance program has caused a student to reconsider becoming involved in a risky sexual relationship---or is there?  Unfortunately we cannot tell you with absolute certainty that students changed their behaviors based on our curriculum.  

What we can tell you is that there are many misconceptions about sexual abuse, sexual risk avoidance, and what constitutes a healthy relationship.  This year we partnered with Choices Life Resource Center and Life Choices Clinic (Two local pregnancy resource centers that also provide STD testing).  I recently had the opportunity to sit down with RN’s from both of these centers to find out what misconceptions are out there about sexual health, pregnancy, healthy/unhealthy relationships.  Here’s what Nurse Manager Elizabeth and Nurse Lisa had to say:
 

Nurse Manager, Elizabeth stated,  “Most of our clients learn about their sexual health from their partner,” which she was quick to point out is a major conflict of interest.  Both Elizabeth and Lisa  said that their clients get much of their information from friends and Google.  The clients at both centers rarely get information about their sexual health from parents.  

Clients at both Choices & Life Choices are often already engaging in risky sexual relationships.  I asked both nurses about some of the common misconceptions they see with their clients.  Many clients think that all STDs have a cure.  They think they are only sleeping with one person, it isn't a big deal.   They think that condoms are foolproof and prevent everything.  Some of the misconceptions that their clients have are so “Out there” you wouldn’t believe it!

I asked both nurses what they would like for all of their clients to know.  Elizabeth said she sees a common theme among many of their clients.  Many of the women she encounters do not know their own self-worth.  They think that they owe something to their partners.  They do not realize they can say “No” when asked to engage in risky sexual behaviors.  Lisa was in agreement with that statement, and further said that she wishes that all students were aware of how things “really work.”  She wishes that the clients she encounters had a better understanding of their anatomy.  

 

While we cannot provide you with absolute numbers in prevention, we can see trends.  We can see changes in attitudes, and in some cases we can see healing.  We can tell you based on  “facts on the ground” in our area, many of the students we are trying to reach are already engaging in sexual relationships, but don’t really know the truth about the risks.  

Recently in one of our classes our students were finishing the curriculum. Our volunteer, Shari, made the point that she always makes in this particular part of the curriculum.  “It is never the victim’s [of sexual assault or rape] fault.”  Here is Shari’s account of what happened next.  “She had been there for three sessions.  She never said a word.  I went over the last part of the curriculum.  I told the students that sexual abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault.  With a quivering voice this student said, “ I was always told that this was my fault.”  Shari reiterated to the student that she was not alone in believing that but adults are supposed to protect children and affirmed her in the new belief that "It's not her fault."  

What is so beautiful about this story is that day she was told the truth.  That day began a journey of healing for this young girl.  We don’t always get to see the impacts that our curriculum has for our students, but for this girl our curriculum was life-changing.  

 

Ben Franklin coined the axiom “ An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We have found that prevention is so vital to making positive changes in our communities.  We need your help!  This year has been a brutal year for fundraising and nonprofits, but the need for our programming has never been greater.  Can you be a source of hope for our communities?  Can you be a catalyst for healthier families and children right here, where you live? We ask that you prayerfully consider not IF you can help, but rather, how many “ounces” of prevention you can help provide.  A monthly partnership of $15/month or more has the power to bring healing to a student in your county.  This monthly partnership has the power to prevent an unplanned pregnancy in your neighborhood.  Your monthly gift may be the reason that a student in your local school is saved from an unhealthy relationship.  Your gift can be the courage it takes for a student to reach out and report abuse.

Special thanks to Choices Life Resource Center and Life Choices Resource Center.
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