By Nadine J. Smet-Weiss, Community Liaison,
Before I continue on about sexual health, I need to recognize all of the people who have experienced any degree of sexual violence in their lifetime. A sexual violation can have long-lasting effects on our personal sense of sexual health and safety. Often, as with any trauma, what first served as savvy survival strategies can turn into not-so-healthy ways of relating to others. For example: a silence that surrounded the original violation(s) can literally leave us speechless when it comes to conversations about sexual health; a haunting memory may stir fear-filled reactions that push people away just when we need them the most. If any of this speaks to you, we want you to know that you are not alone.
The good news is, as human beings, we have an incredible capacity to adapt and heal and grow. Just like you were savvy in developing the strategies you needed to survive, you have the ability to develop skills for thriving. As you do, you can model these skills for the youth (and others) in your life. By breaking the silence to talk openly and honestly about sexual health, you give the youth in your life permission – and the words they need – to ask questions, talk about relationships and make sense of their own human development. We are not saying it will be easy. We are saying it is possible and it is worth it.
The more good news is, our community has quality services, like those offered by our partner agency – SafeBerks – that offer accessible resources and supportive connections for survivors of sexual trauma. You can reach out to them if/whenever you are ready: www.safeberks.org or (610)373-1206.
In the meantime, be kind and gentle with yourself.