I don’t often write about my job, but after thinking this over for the last two days I’ve decided I should.
On Monday evening our desk was sent a tip about a recent presentation that Elizabeth Smart made at a human trafficking forum at Johns Hopkins. We put our feelers out to see if another desk had something in the works, but we concluded that there wasn’t anything coming.
My boss then tasked me to write up a piece and get it online.
I had been sent a video link from our social media specialist and was able to watch her speech in its entirety. And I did, several times. I was also sent a link to a brief from the Christian Science Monitor. I read through it and did my own google search.
I was confused. The reports that I was reading seemed to have come from a different forum, at the very least a different person. Yes, some of the quotes were the same, but her words had been taken grossly out of context.
So I watched the video again, just to be sure. You should watch it too.
Smart wasn’t suggesting that teaching abstinence had made her feel worthless after being raped, as some sources concluded.
Smart wasn’t saying that because of her religious teachings that she felt like a “chewed up piece of gum.” The gum analogy came from a school teacher (by the way). But again, that was stretched.
Many sources simply took a few quotes (particularly about the chewing gum) and built a story and idea around just that.
I even received emails from a few people frustrated that I didn’t focus my story in the Deseret News around that.
But do you know why I didn’t? Because that’s not what Smart focused on.
I watched the video, several times.
The message that I gathered from the elegant Smart was the importance of educating children about human trafficking, teaching them to be prepared because parents won’t be able to be with their children every second of the day (or night), and also to instill in these children a strong sense of self-worth, so should they ever (heaven forbid) be trafficked they would have the strength to overcome.
Smart was raped. She felt worthless because of it. I don’t think she would have felt less worthless if her school teacher hadn’t taught that abstinence before marriage is ideal, or if her parents hadn’t taught her the sacredness of intimacy. In fact, it was her parents love and teachings that pulled her through her nine months in captivity.
She came to the realization that her parents would love her no matter what. No matter what had happened to her, or what she had been through, they would love her. And the hope of being reunited with her loving parents kept her going.
There was no hidden agenda about discontinuing abstinence instruction. Her message was one of hope. It was centered around the value of a soul, and how important it is that every child know their value.
I was disappointed with the media when I read their reports, because I have a strong belief in the power and the responsibility of the media. They took this and ran wild with it. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who saw things as they really were. Jay Evensen wrote a post for the Deseret News on the media’s reaction to Smart’s words, which I really appreciated.
On a side note, as a mother I can’t imagine the horror of having a child experience such things. It would be my worst nightmare and why I pray for their safety all day, all night, every day and every night.
While I do shower my children with love and praise, and always strive to build within them a strong core and sense of worth, her words made me want to do more. Her words made me want to teach more, prepare more and give even more love.
It has been my hope, from the time each of them were placed in my arms for the first time, that they would know that I love them and I always will, no matter what. No matter what.