Day 4: Teens with Trauma 2

Childhood trauma tends to produce sexually active teen girls.

“Som” , now 13, was born to teen parents. She was to be aborted by her 17-year-old mother, her grandmother had decided. Some negotiation by workers saved her life: Som’s mother and equally young father would marry and receive assistance in starting a family, and she would be carried to term.

Som received lots of love at The Well growing up, and we tried hard to help her mom and dad become a healthy couple. For a while things were looking hopeful, but fell completely apart just after Som turned four. Her dad returned to drug dealing, and her mom, deciding she had had enough, found another man and became alcoholic, following her mother and older siblings.

For a while Som stayed with her mother and stepdad, but eventually they sent her to be with her grandmother in a rural village. Her grandmother had a long history of alcoholism as well. Som did well in school, but between her grandmother’s continued alcoholism and her limited opportunity in a rural school, she was sent back to Bangkok for junior high.

Back in Bangkok, Som felt neglected. Her mom worked two jobs so was rarely home, and drank on Sundays. Soon we were hearing accusations from her mother that Som was lying and running around. Som said she was miserable and misunderstood. On visits to our home it was readily apparent that Som was highly addicted to her phone, and that she was talking with boys.

I have tried many times to help insulate girls from being taken advantage of sexually. I refer to the locker-room  and construction-worker talk that I heard in my past, and try to point out the lies that guys will tell to get girls into bed. To my knowledge, this attempt at educating girls has never worked. A 15-year- told me proudly, “My boyfriend told me he has stopped womanizing because I meet his specs.”

I now understand it not as a behavior problem as much as a chemical dependency. We all remember that high, that rush of oxytocin, dopamine etc. when we first felt strong attraction at that young age.  Put that in the brain/body of a kid long starved for hugs, eye contact or simple praise, and you have a brain that has found what it always needed, that will focus its full attention on getting more. There is nothing else. This is love that is better than life.

I gave my sex ed talk to Som when she was still 12, in my mind not so much to prevent anything, but more as a “we’ll still love you” prophylactic. Indeed, recently it came out that something has been going on. Som says she is wants to go to Christian girls’ residential program we know, so we’re working with her and her mom to make that happen. She seems to accept my periodic messages of love and encouragement.