The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
Another problem with abstinence education
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By Rick Holmes
May 9, 2013 5:17 p.m.

Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted and held prisoner for nine months in Utah, knows something about what the three young women kidnapped in Cleveland are going through.† A decade after her abduction, she’s speaking out, and one of the topics she has addressed is the damage abstinence education can do to rape victims:

“I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence, and she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum. When you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who is going to want you after that?’ Well, that’s terrible. No one should ever say that. But for me, I thought, ‘I’m that chewed-up piece of gum.’ Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away. And that’s how easy it is to feel you no longer have worth. Your life no longer has value.”

Apparently that kind of story is typical of the tactics abstinence educators use to try to scare teenagers away from sex. The data say it doesn’t work, but there’s been less discussion of the lasting harm that kind of propaganda can do to adults in their relationships, not to mention to victims of sexual assault that see themselves as chewed-up gum.

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