I Own My Body/My Self

Sexual Assault

Please remember April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

This week the Talk early, talk often series continues on the SAAM Blog with a guest post from Kenya Fairley, MSEd., advocate and coordinator of the National Domestic Violence Awareness Project.

What is the greatest lesson you learned growing up that supported healthy development?

I think of my mother as the first reproductive rights advocate in my life. She taught my sister and I to own our bodies and that each of us were solely responsible for caring for it. Reflecting back on that now, I see what a valuable lesson that was to learn growing up.

As a teenager, I remember my mother sitting with my sister and I to discuss our bodies and what it means to “be a woman.” Mostly this consisted of discussing how to manage our menstrual cycles and informing us of how not to become pregnant. One thing I remember the most about some of those talks was my mother sharing a book with us about women’s bodies that we were expected to read and learn from as we grew into our “womanhood.” I don’t quite remember the name of it now, but this book was thick like an encyclopedia with lots of pictures of how our bodies would develop and what our reproductive organs looked like. Thus we were offered two valid and critical perspectives: one based on lived experience and the other on what we expect to be true about women’s bodies.

In my work with teenage girls at sleep-away camps and with young women residing in domestic violence shelters, I’ve seen many young girls that did not know much about how their bodies functioned or how to care for their bodies. Some had not been taught basic hygiene routines and some had learned bad habits (such as douching) that were difficult to discontinue. Some young women were not given permission or empowered to speak ownership over what does and does not happen to their bodies—at the doctor’s office for, instance, or when sharing residential space with other girls and women.

For additional information: http://www.nsvrc.org/blogs/saam/i-own-my-bodymy-self#.UWw2LCeAdek.facebook


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