Another season of transformation is upon us. Elementary school students are moving on to middle school, middle schoolers are going to high school, and high school seniors are graduating to enter college or the workforce, or embark on other journeys still unmapped.
It is the season of proms, of parties, and private moments in secret gardens.
It is also the season of sudden freedom for teenagers, of new anxieties and joys, and new ways of reacting to them.
For many, that can mean drinking alcohol or using drugs, or both. It can mean car accidents and fights. It will almost certainly mean sexual assault.
You know someone who has survived it, whether you are aware of it or not.
Most people can absorb the shock of a natural catastrophe and continue to function. In an earthquake, wildfire, even in war, we tend to form coherent groups to respond and defend ourselves in order to resist and recover.
We also tend to distance ourselves from an individual’s trauma. That terminal patient. That addict. That kid who was raped at a party.
But we are vulnerable. We conceal that fear with bluster, prejudice and certainty.
You can say it happened to them—to a “them”—so it can’t happen to you. You can blame them. You can blame the drunk driver, the rapist, the parents, the schools, or call it an “884” problem that doesn’t touch you.
But blame does not keep anyone safe and it does not help anyone heal.
Talking does, and so does listening. We may think we know what to tell our children about choices and consequences, about alcohol and sex, about making a phone call instead of getting in a car, about depression or fear. Listening is harder. It’s hard to hear about a child’s anxiety, guilt or suffering. But if we don’t hear it, we can’t begin to understand where it comes from or where it can lead.
In these pages, you will read about young people who have flirted with danger, who have won awards and scholarships, who have beat terrible odds, and who have suffered terrible consequences when the odds beat them.
We should listen. Their stories can transform us, too.
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