Monday, November 23, 2009

Learning from Precious

Have you seen the movie Precious? If not, it's a must-see. But not just for a night out. Precious exists to pique our conscious. Read the book as well. The movie stays pretty true to the book, but the book provides even more insight.

I wanted to watch the movie because several years ago one of the teenagers were sitting in my apartment. We were having some kind of serious discussion and one of them mentioned that she had been sexually molested by her mother's boyfriend. One by one, the other girls spoke up...“Me, too…me, too…me, too…”

I had no idea what to do. We worked to try to get the most recent one to counseling but her grandmother resisted and her mother denied it had ever happened.

More recently one of them text'd me to let me know she was ok, but she had just tried to commit suicide. I couldn't believe it. She's in college and she had just told me how well she was doing! She explained that she had repressed her memories, but knew she needed to know. When her sister told her what all had happened, she couldn't take the reality. The residual of what happened when she was four or five years old still haunts her.

Just the other day when I was telling another young adult about my idea to have one of the girls I know speak about their situation in hopes of helping another young teenager speak out, she explained that she had also been sexually abused. She went on to tell me she knew of quite a few others who had been victims as well.


I don’t understand! Where do these sick, sick men come from?? And why can’t we stop them??

I had heard one time that 75% of women…or maybe it was 75% of African-American women had been sexually abused. 75%! That’s 3 out of 4 women! And I would guess most times that abuser is never brought to justice because the women were too scared and unsure to tell when they were kids and by the time they became adults they felt like there was nothing that could be done. I've heard mothers say, "It happened to me and I'm fine so you will be, too." ...and they don't realize how it has manifested itself in so many other ways in their life.

As I read the book, I've been bothered even more. Precious didn’t know how to read until she was 16 and was, by chance, put into an alternative program. She thinks so little of herself because her mother always called her stupid and ugly. She was fat because of her mother's abusiveness toward her. She was raped not only by her own father, but she was also molested by her own mother.

I think about other kids I’ve known. I wonder what I *don't* know about their situations.

I think about a girl I knew who was sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend for so long. I wonder about her sister. I wonder if that's why she was always a slow learner. I wonder what a pre-GED program and literacy program could have and could still do for her today.

I’m so happy that we finally have teen programs at Central Dallas. I’m happy that we have young adults working with the teenagers who have been in their shoes. They know what the teens have gone through and they can relate to them in ways I never could.

But I am not satisfied.

We have to do more.

I have known so many adults who graduated from high school who are illiterate. After watching Precious, I wonder now if some of their childhood situations may have contributed in a much bigger way than we realize.

We are doing what we can, on a small scale, with the elementary kids and the teenagers. But we need a program that works on literacy. We need a pre-GED program. We need counselors--not the school referrals that send kids to counseling but only allow them three visits...not the school counselors (because they only administer tests and aren't real counselors anymore) ...and not the fly-by-night counseling services that come through the inner-city neighborhoods to make a buck, take on clients for a limit time until their funding runs out, and without even having the counseling ethics to tell a parent or client that they will be leaving, they disappear.

We need more programs like the ASA, Teen U, the Library, and Digital Connectors. Programs that exist for the long haul. Programs that don’t disappear. Programs that have such dedicated staff who care about the future of the kids and adults in the community. Programs that offer solutions instead of just pointing out the problems.

We’ve got to do more. Not just in Dallas, but everywhere.

I don’t know what that is just yet. I haven't figured out what we will start next. But I know we’ve got to do more.
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