*The following is a letter presented by a friend and sister in Christ to her local school district in response to the school board’s decision to cancel a presentation led by Shelly Donahue, a nationally recognized speaker and follower of Jesus. School leaders cancelled the presentation because her message was about abstinence and some parents believe abstinence to be a religious position. The school district did, however, allow her to present to parents. Leading up to and following her presentation, media accused Shelly Donahue for placing shame on single parents and those who have been sexually assaulted. My friend, a single parent of two daughters and survivor of sexual assault, wrote this letter as she believed it was important for her community to hear this message. I believe her words powerfully portray the need for the unity of the family, the influence of both mom and dad in the lives of their children, and the wholeness, redemption, and hope that is found in the Gospel of Jesus. May the Lord strengthen families through the cross in our nation and world abroad.
“Thank you for allowing Shelly Donahue to present to parents and students that attended the parent presentation. Shelly’s message is important for our youth to hear. While many will say that abstinence doesn’t work, or that abstinence is religious, it is by far the best practice for our youth to learn.
I have followed all the debate about Shelly’s message and I have quietly listened to both sides of the controversy. It is important to always listen, be respectful, and kind when someone is sharing his or her viewpoint.
I had the incredible opportunity to attend Shelly’s abstinence training for two days four years ago. The information was valuable for me as a parent, as a community member, and also as an educator. My children (now young adults) had the opportunity to hear Shelly and they loved her message. They don’t feel shamed or targeted because of what Shelly shared. Rather, they felt hopeful for the future.
As a single parent, I found Shelly’s message to be as valuable as the training I attended 4 years ago. Regardless of what people say, children of single parents are at risk. Shelly’s message helped me as a parent, helped my children as they attended college, and yes, has benefited my classroom.
Last week I read in the newspaper where a school board member stated that her message was “shaming” to single parents. I have to disagree. I knew when I got divorced many years ago that my children could be at risk. Look at the research. It is clear that single parent families are at risk. Often there is an absent parent, or parents that have many relationships with others in and out of their homes, and/or less parental supervision due to double responsibilities or life choices.
I was blessed with very good advice, from a fantastic attorney who said, ‘Be VERY careful of who you bring into your children’s lives.’ I took that advice to heart and while I dated occasionally, my children were NEVER exposed to a man I was dating. I protected them with everything that I have. To this day I am happily single and thankful I never settled for the wrong match, putting my children at risk. Being a single parent is a hard job. You have twice the workload and double roles. I chose to put my children first.
As an educator I have seen the damage of single parent homes. I have had students that had more responsibilities than many adults. I have had students that have been assaulted by step-parents, boyfriends, and even girlfriends. I have had students that spent many evenings and weekends alone because of life choices of single parents, or a single parent that works 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. I have witnessed these students be targeted as troubled because they came from broken homes. Undoubtedly there is damage in broken married homes too, but the statistics do not lie about single parent children being at risk.
As an example, at senior night for swim season years ago my daughter anxiously waited for her father who had promised to be there, texting him between races, in tears minutes before she was recognized by her Coach for her four year contributions to the Varsity Squad because her dad blew her off. You are crazy if you don’t think children are affected by living in single parent homes.
As another example, my youngest daughter searched the crowd at her graduation for just a glimpse of her father. Optimistically positive that her dad wouldn’t disappoint her, and in tears as she realized he really didn’t show.
Outstanding male role models, in their lives, blessed my children. They had coaches, youth pastors, uncles, grandfathers, and some incredible teachers who never missed an event. Even with these great role models, you can’t tell me that there is a not a father void in their life.
Even more, let’s talk friends. If you think that the great families always invited my children to be a part of their children’s events, you are crazy. Single parent homes are at risk. Children raised in broken homes are judged by their parent’s failure in marriage. Single parent children are seeking acceptance and love, and willing to do anything to be accepted by their peers, by boys/girls, coaches and teachers. Single parent homes are viewed as dysfunctional in society. Walk in the shoes I walked, and yes, you will see it is real.
At the same time I raised my kids with more EXPECTATIONS than most married homes. I provided mentors and sought out coaches that had HIGH EXPECTATIONS for my children. I was a single proactive parent. I raised my children to believe that abstinence is best and marriage is most successful when SEX is saved for marriage. My children have had to sit through sex-education programs for years learning about condoms, programs that gave them condoms, and mixed messages that said it is okay if you use a condom.
I allowed them to hear both sides. I also told them to raise their bar. I told them they were worth way more than any sexual relationship they could have had in high school. I never denied you to teach my kids a method of safe sex. I never denied them to be educated. I encouraged them to make the best life decisions. I taught them that they are worth much more than meaningless high school sex. I sure didn’t raise them to sell themselves short and put their emotional or physical health in harm’s way.
I realize some of the people are saying that Shelly’s message blames and shames. I have to question why they didn’t attend the presentation.
One school leader commented about victims of sexual assault being shamed by Shelly Donahue. Again I have to disagree. At the young age of 15, I was a victim of rape. That act changed my carefree life forever, eventually led to a horrible marriage, but with incredible family support, I found the power of GOD – love, healing, and forgiveness. Never once did I find Shelly’s message harmful to me. Not once did I find her message to target me as damaged, or shame me. Sexual assault is a game changer for many lives. Many people don’t ever heal. I healed; I have no guilt, no shame. I am a survivor and shame on that individual for making comments stating that victims found shame from Shelly’s message. If anything, Shelly’s message allowed more healing and more hope for the future. I’m not ashamed to be a survivor. I am a survivor and I have overcome one of the worst things that a person could imagine. There is absolutely no shame in survival.
I realize my hometown has changed. I realize we are dealing with much more liberal views, but I want you to realize my children grew up hearing all about SAFE SEX and never once did any of those lessons talk about their value. Not once did those messages talk about the emotional damage of “safe sex”. Allow both sides of the message to be presented so our youth can make the best decision for their lives.
I am appreciative that a few of the school leaders supported Shelly’s message. The youth that attended the presentation spoke up saying they wanted to be educated to make the best decision. Some inspirational young high school students addressed a crowd and said they wanted to hear the message of abstinence because all they had hear their entire lives was “safe sex”. A group of high school students raised their expectations. I hope as parents, community members, school leaders, teachers, and family members we can also raise our expectations. The foundation of God and family has to be a priority.”