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Public Service Announcement — Abstinence-Only Programs Hurt our Young People

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November 9, 2012

The Presidential election is finally over and now that we know we have four more years with President Obama, we need to look at our youth and address an issue that is ever present, and is becoming more alarming every day. The prevalence of Abstinence-only programs that is crippling our young people.

I reside on the border of Orange and Seminole Counties in Orlando Florida, an area where being conservative is the norm. I can’t help but think about all the youth in my area that need comprehensive sex education information are being shafted. In this county discussing sex is taboo and many students don’t even bother to ask if they do have questions because they will just be chastised and shunned. I know the critics will say if you talk about sex your encouraging sexual behavior. But, let’s make something abundantly clear — young people are having sex. It IS happening even as I hit these keys with my fingers. Individuals are engaging in sexual activities, and with no correct knowledge how can these young people ever be truly safe and protect themselves as well as their partners?

Through attending UCF and living within and between such conservative counties, I’ve become involved with a program under the Women’s Studies Department titled: The Young Women Leaders Program. This program features college aged women that mentor 7th grade girls in three schools of Seminole County. I’ve been involved in this program for some years now, and it’s something in my life that I can truly say I love. But through being a big sister in this program, I’ve become frustrated time and time again when a little sister had a question I simply wasn’t allowed to answer. Because of the strict nature of the county, big sister mentors are expressly forbidden from speaking to their little sister mentees about anything related to politics, sex, and religion.

Seventh grade is usually right around the time when girls are undergoing the changes in their bodies and often have to rediscover their new selves. But mentors can’t even answer any questions that their littles may have if it approaches the topic of sex because doing so could mean the death of a program that does so much good for so many. I myself and some of my friends have been in this situation, and it leaves me heartbroken and panicked because I wonder how these girls are going to get this vital information, if they’re going to get it at all. It breaks my heart every time I think about it.

Think how frustrating it must be for girls to ask for their big sister’s advice or general questions about their bodies and not receive any response? This can prove to be detrimental as these girls are bombarded with peer issues related to these subjects.

Even if we take the sexual activity, and all the nuances that come with that out of this conversation (which would be another mistake), what about these young people having agency over their own reproductive health, knowing their bodies, and recognizing what’s happening during the transition from youth to adulthood? How can these people ever learn to effectively take care of their bodies as well as how to spot when something goes awry? This is a travesty and we are doing an injustice to these young people when we pretend that like these issues don’t exist!

So to all those people in positions of authority; parents, administrators, and the like… Is leaving your youth unequipped in life the smart thing? Will this ensure the perfect cookie cutter future that you always dreamt for them? OR, will this leave these young people unprepared, and more likely to experience negative effects that may seriously affects their futures? Read the studies, look over the facts, THEY DON’T LIE. Not educating young people doesn’t protect them, it leaves them vulnerable to exactly all the horrible “what ifs” that aren’t wanted in the first place. Abstinence-only isn’t the answer, it’s the problem.

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