Comments about ‘Elizabeth Smart speaks at human trafficking forum, emphasizes teaching children that they matter’

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Published: Tuesday, May 7 2013 9:00 a.m. MDT

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Salt Lake City, UT

So basically, teaching kids that losing their virginity makes them like a chewed piece of gum is potentially harmful.

Bountiful, UT

I don't understand why being raped would make a person feel worthless. It seems illogical from my perspective. But I believe her that she felt that way. I wonder if she has been able to shake those feelings. Perhaps she never will completely.

Cinci Man

This is just a question. Didn't Elizabeth Smart get married? Did she decide not to adjust her name in some way? I didn't see in the article a married name. Thanks, if anyone knows.

Springville, UT

Frankly, I am surprised that this article misrepresents part of her message. In her comments, she spoke out against abstinence-only education. She said she was taught through abstinence-only education that a person whose virginity was lost before marriage was considered worthless. She talke "about a school teacher who urged students against premarital sex and compared women who had sex before their wedding nights to chewing gum. She said:

“I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

This DesNews article completely surpressed and distorted this important perspective. I deem this a manipulation of the news.

no fit in SG
St.George, Utah

If one has incessantly been drummed into them that chastity is the one and only way for a young lady to be able to function in her family's religion, it is no wonder that one would feel as Elizabeth Smart describes.
Ms. Smart is a brave woman to come forth and tell it like it is.
Perhaps this responsible revelation that others have been unwilling to publicly discuss, will awaken more thoughtful conversation in religious and social circles.

Nanook of the North
Phoenix, AZ

Esquire got it right. The single most important part of her message, as reported by other outlets, was that she'd gotten the despicable "chewing gum" object lesson from a teacher at some point, and after she was kidnapped and raped she thought "Oh no, I've lost my 'virtue', now no one will ever love me again!" Who told which editor that this bit should be left out of this story in this newspaper?

Salt Lake City, UT

Like several other commentators, I was surprised to see no mention of Elizabeth's sense of lost worth due to her understanding of virginal virtue, and how once she was no longer a virgin her sense of worth was forever lost.

I'm not sure of all the reasons but it seems clear that this reporter could not have omitted such a central point of Elizabeth's speech accidentally or through sheer neglect.

I hope there will be improvements in the editorial review process that will ensure that such omissions (or deletions) of parts of stories that are as relevant as this will no longer be permitted (or encouraged).

San Diego, CA

Dear DesNews,

This article ends up being somewhat misleading because, as others here have already said, you have left out a big chunk of yesterday's message, that is the part that covered abstinence only education and the chewing gum analogy.

Smart was actually complaining about those old chewing gum lessons which are very common in our small community and teaches that someone who has had sex is like a used chewing gum that no one else will want to touch. That analogy is simply wrong and we shouldn't use it and it negatively affected Ms Smart during her kidnapping and probably negatively affects others today who face these issues in silence and pain.

SLC gal
Salt Lake City, UT

Cinci man - she got married last year. I can see her keeping her maiden name, at least in the public eye, to avoid confusion.

A lot of media outlets have used this to state why abstinance only education is bad. To me this is not an "abstinance only" issue. This is an issue of failing to empower our young women with the appropriate education. A discussion of birth control in her 8th grade health class would not have prevented what happened to her, but a class on rape prevention, and how to identify it may have been far more valuable.

Kaysville, UT

Thanks to Elizabeth Smart and her family for helping people avoid potential problems with their children. We don't want to be so fearful but yet want to know the caution signs and warnings out there we can learn from.

What a remarkable person to be able to do this with those healing scars she lived with. What a blessing through this tragedy in her life experience.

May God bless you forever.


Everybody who is commenting on this topic ought to take 5 mins and use the link in the article to listen to Elizabeth Smart's speech.

Assuming DN has a high standard of accurate reporting, they did leave out a major point in Elizabeth's speech--one that every school and church teacher ought to hear: education needs to start early and personal value extends beyond mere chastity.

There is such a double standard in society whereby male promiscuity is acceptable but promiscuous women are trash, and that women need laws, enacted by men, to control their healthcare decisions.

Flower Mound, TX

There was a study done by BYU years ago that showed that only those teachers who truly believed in abstinence themselves were able to teach abstinence effectively. I can guarantee you that many teachers do not believe that abstinence is realistic, mostly because they didn't do it themselves. Therefore, when they have to teach it in the schools, the students absorb the teacher's true attitudes. A teacher can't help but teach who he/she really is.

Salt Lake County, UT

SLC_gal, while rape prevention might be a meaningful topic to be taught at schools, it wouldn't have prevented much in this case. When a man breaks into your window at night and forcefully removes you at knife point, your choices are very limited. Yes, we can and should teach people how to avoid dangerous situations and how toe scape, but it is something that sadly cannot really be escaped a lot of the time - and it isn't because the women (or men) aren't educated enough to know how to escape, it's just that the attacker(s) are quicker, more powerful, more dangerous, more methodical, etc.

However, teaching young people that their self worth is not decreased because of any act committed against them is something that we can do which can have a meaningful impact on the unfortunate victims.


Although I am surprised that DN left out her mentions of feeling worthless because of what she was taught about chastity, saying that her experience is an indictment of teaching abstinence CHEAPENS THE HORRIBLE CRIME OF RAPE! Are you saying that if she was okay with having sex outside of marriage she would have been able to handle the situation better or differently? Would it have made the rape less traumatic and somehow okay in her mind?

The point of her comments, in my reading, is that we must emphasize that self worth is not tied to anything that someone can take from you (freedom, virginity), but is an inherent part of each human being. She has often said that her religion, family and what she had been taught helped her survive. In addition, several studies have shown that teenage girls that choose to wait have higher self-esteem, so lets not try to boil her remarks down to a petty fight over when sex is appropriate.

Layton, UT

There is nothing wrong with teaching abstinence---what is wrong was that along with teaching her about abstinence, E. Smart's teacher didn't discriminate between a rapist and a potential life partner.

I grew up with the OPPOSITE teaching---abstinence is stupid, it's not 'realistic,' it's not normal, etc. This came from my parents: My mother has been married 4 times, and my father, who has been married 3 times. They taught me be word and example that abstinence DOES help a family and a marriage. But I was never taught that I was a dirty chewed up piece of gum, either.

There has to be a balance, and more than anything, to teach children that they have infinite value, something that was also engrained in Elizabeth's mind as a young girl.

Happy Valley Heretic
Orem, UT

@ patjan... So Nuns at catholic schools who teach abstinence, don't really believe in it, or aren't actual virgins, if any of their students don't practice what they are taught?

Talk about a blame game of nonsense, Kids are animals who can "absorb the teacher's true attitudes." and then in defiance have sex?

Using this logic and the fact that religions are the 1st to push abstinence only teaching, I guess religious folks don't believe what they're teaching cause kids are still having sex.

Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA

Perhaps when we're teach sex ed, a distinction needs to be made between loss of virginity by rape and loss of virginity by choice. The two are not related because one involves choice and the other does not. It's like being injured in a car accident because the other driver was DUI vs. being injured in a car accident because you were DUI.

Spanish Fork , UT

"Human Trafficking" is a polite term governments and groups frequently use and which media outlets tend to follow. Doing so misses the nature and root issue. There are many forms, true, but the term ought to be corrected to read "Slavery" instead.

Joan Watson

Agreed, byufanutahemployee
One cant imagine the feelings of one who is raped at a very young age - or any other age for that matter. The only fact one can cling to is that they themselves are decent in the face of indecency

Salt Lake County, UT

"Are you saying that if she was okay with having sex outside of marriage she would have been able to handle the situation better or differently?"

No. We're saying that the methods used to illustrate the point about chastity are inordinately severe, and teach women that they are literally worthless and deserve nothing more than to be tossed into a garbage can, and that they fail to account for issues of sexual assault, child abuse, and simple mistakes.

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