Support Scarleteen: Your Support Gives Young People Our Support
You probably heard that Siri, the digital assistant on the iPhone 4S, could help someone find Viagra or a sexual escort, but not a family planning clinic, a local pharmacy to get a birth control prescription filled or an abortion provider. Whether that was intended or a glitch, it was understandably very upsetting. At Scarleteen, people can get easy help finding those important services and more through our SMS service, our fully moderated message boards, our growing Find-a-Doc database and, of course, our exhaustive information about contraception, abortion and other reproductive choices, sexual healthcare and so many other sexuality and sexual health topics.
Some people sure paid a lot of money for a tool that didn’t serve them or others well. Scarleteen users get those services and much more for free. We give teens and young adults real people to talk with, for nearly 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, when the thousands of pages of in-depth, thoughtful information at Scarleteen don’t have all they want or need. While all of that is free to our users, providing it to them costs money.
You may have appreciated a recent piece on sex education at the New York Times. It profiled a sex educator who doesn’t limit sex ed to a dry curriculum, simplistic sound bytes or fearful warnings about the terrible, horrible things that will happen to teens if they engage in sex. We certainly appreciated it. Approaching sexuality as something potentially positive and enriching, rather than as only harmful, damaging or merely neutral is something we’ve always done. You may have seen this piece on why inclusive sex education is important. We know that, too: Scarleteen is inclusive of a spectrum of orientations and identities, including in our leadership and staffing. And we aim to be inclusive with more than just orientation, but also with gender identity, embodiment, relationship models, reproductive choices, socioeconomics, cultural and religious beliefs and more.
We know sex and sexuality aren't just about the bad things that can happen. We also know healthy sexuality and relationships aren’t things only heterosexual, gender-conforming, able-bodied, middle-class or white people can attain, and that one of the most important protective factors for healthy sexuality and positive sexual experiences and outcomes is real inclusion in sexuality education and support. Holding those kinds of positions limits our access to resources other organizations and initiatives who take a different stance have. But even when we’ve had to fight a long battle like we did with the ACLU over the COPA to defend these positions, we know this is what serves people best and is what we intend to stay true to, with or without media or political support.
Every year, millions of teen and young adult readers get the truly comprehensive sex and sexual health information, education and support they want and need at Scarleteen. Scarleteen users frequently express they find a level and a quality of education and service here they have not found anywhere else, including in school-based sex education and at other organizations or sites with exponentially greater resources.
We need your support because what we do costs money.
Scarleteen is an independent, grassroots organization without federal, state, institutional or foundational funding. We are, as we always have been, supported primarily by private, individual donations from people like you. And unlike some sex education services for young people that have come on the horizon lately who seek to charge them for information, we recognize the realities of the social and economic status of young people, and aim to always provide our services to them for free.
We often need to explain to potential supporters what it is we do and the many ways that we help young people. The fact that we’ve got more pages of original, thoughtful, in-depth and progressive sexuality, sexual health and intimate relationship information online than anywhere else makes some of what we have to offer obvious. But what might be less apparent to someone who isn't one of our young users is all of what we offer here and how much it can benefit them.
- B. was a young teen who came to us in a pre-existing sexual relationship with an adult cousin describing clear dynamics of sexual and emotional abuse, but was not aware the relationship was unhealthy. We helped B. evaluate it with our articles and a lot of one-on-one discussion so B. could get out, then get help. We were there for support every step of the way while B. went through the challenges of disclosing and reporting, and then a locally publicized legal case. When B. came through all of that, we were still there to help in the healing process, then later to help with navigating a wanted, consensual sexual relationship. We’re still here years later – the same people, with no limit on how how long B. can keep talking -- as B. continues that process and begins a college life with a new sense of freedom, excitement and empowerment.
- S. is a South Asian young person who was struggling with her family trying to choose a spouse for her, something she had very mixed feelings about, primarily because she is not heterosexual. We helped S. talk though her questions about her orientation and sexual identity as she became clear she was lesbian, and spent many months supporting her through struggles to figure out the differences between what she wanted and who she felt she was and what her family wanted and who they wanted her to be. We helped connect her with culturally-relevant material and organizations, and supported her while she took the plunge of connecting with an LGBT support group. We supported her when she came out to some people, including her family, and kept supporting her when they were unaccepting. We continue to support her still -- she has also become an amazing support for some of our other LGBT users in areas or cultural groups who are unaccepting -- as she moves forward into the life she wants for herself, and tries to find ways to make that work for her without taking on a western cultural identity that isn't hers or doing things she does not feel are right for her as a lesbian.
- N. was a young woman of color who came to Scarleteen after manipulation from two different CPCs when she needed an abortion, a wanted procedure the CPCs stalled to the point that she could not afford a procedure herself anymore and was in the final week she could terminate. Barely out of her teens, a parent already, unemployed and neglected by family, she had also recently gotten herself out of of an abusive relationship. She knew remaining pregnant would have tied her and a child to her abusive ex-partner and made supporting herself and her two-year-old impossible. We walked her through every step of the process – including the difficult-to-navigate system of abortion funding, as well as helping her find a quality clinic and giving her emotional support she was without. When her transportation fell through, one of our supporters and colleagues stepped up to our call for help to get her to the clinic on time. When some of the funding fell through, a couple more supporters stepped up to our call to action to help. With our teamwork, she got the procedure she wanted and needed and emotional support throughout, and has since reported that her life has tremendously improved thanks to help she got from Scarleteen.
- A. also first came to Scarleteen when she was pregnant, and wanted to remain pregnant, and had no emotional support from friends or family. We provided her with that support. When she later disclosed she had been in, and was still in, an abusive relationship, we took the time, over years, to help her through the process of leaving it safely with her child and moving into a life free of abuse as a very young, single parent. A. is now not only a Scarleteen volunteer, but a paid staff member of our in-person outreach to homeless and transient youth in Seattle. Utilizing her life experiences and unique talents, together we developed a presentation for youth about reproductive coercion and unhealthy relationships which she delivers a few times each month. The youth we serve value and respect what A. gives them greatly, connect very well with her, and she has greatly informed and benefited our local outreach and our organization as a whole.
There’s also the user who utilized our text service after a sexual assault to get help gathering courage to go to the emergency room: we stayed on the line with her all day and into the night, giving her support throughout the many steps of that process. There’s the user who grew up in a socially conservative environment and married young, which was supported by his community, but who found himself without help or support from the same community when his wife filed for divorce, and when he realized that the strict gender roles he was raised with had resulted in the loss of his most cherished relationship. Or the evangelical user who engaged in sex before marriage and who struggled horribly with immense levels of guilt she felt unable to disclose to anyone in her community: she came to us for those conversations and that support. Or the homeless youth in Seattle this year who received pro-choice options counseling via our partnership with a local shelter: three young women made difficult choices with pregnancies, but all left these conversations with extensive resources and support for their different choices to terminate, arrange adoption and parent they didn't have before and couldn't get elsewhere.
Young people like these have said that without Scarleteen, they don’t know how they would have gotten through what they did and come out on the other side as well as they did. Young people like these rely on us to give them a kind of information and support they often say they couldn’t find anywhere else.
We know bad things or unwanted outcomes can happen. That’s why we dedicate so much time and energy to serving young people dealing with difficult trauma, issues or circumstances. However, not all of the young people who use Scarleteen come to us in crisis. Plenty come to us without traumatic experiences, or before they've engaged in any kind of sexual activity or sexual relationship. And that's just as important: we help young people create a foundation most likely to support healthy, happy sexualities and sexual lives and informed sexual choices they feel good about.
Users frequently voice surprise that we remember who they are as they come and go. Yet this isn't surprising for an organization who deeply engages with the people it serves as a core part of its model. We think this level of engagement and commitment is essential to serving young people well, particularly with issues as diverse, personal and complex as sexuality, core parts of their identity and intimate relationships.
A phone robot won't know or remember these stories and these people. Organizations who invest more time and energy in acquiring funding than in service, who base or change their missions or aims on the politics or whims of funders rather than on the expressed needs of those who need and use their services will not have a staff and volunteer staff who know all of these stories by heart like we do. Sex education initiatives which get hamstrung by social or political battles or by foundational or institutional red tape often never get off the ground to hear these stories or speak with these youth.
This level of service requires people with deep and abiding dedication and care, but it also costs money.
It can be easy to look at all we do for the many years we've consistently done it for and think we've got all we need to keep doing it. But we don't: the amount of funds we have to work with in a given year is typically about the same as the median income for one family in the United States, a budget which means closed doors for most organizations. We're proud of our ability to do all we have with so little, and proud of the profound commitment of our staff and volunteers. However to sustain our organization and all that it does and can do, we need continued and increased support.
That’s why we’re reminding you how much we need and depend on you.
You can assure Scarleteen remains available to the hundreds of thousands of young people who find what they want and need here each month by making a donation today.
Your contribution is something you can feel proud of because of the many young people's lives it helps us positively impact together; because of the dedicated passionate and compassionate education and support it provides them in an area of life where so many so often are undereducated and unsupported. Your contribution gets a thank you every single day through every young person who is able to use a fully comprehensive, caring service like ours. And it gets a big thank you from all of us at Scarleteen, who know exactly how valuable what you can give is, and who are grateful to you for helping us continue to do the work we so love doing.
Support Scarleteen Now
- To make a secure, tax-deductible donation by credit card online: CLICK HERE.
- To make a tax-deductible donation by mail, make your check out to The Center for Sex and Culture, writing "For Scarleteen" in the memo. Mail to: The Center for Sex and Culture, c/o Carol Queen, 2215-R Market Street PMB 455, San Francisco, CA, 94114. They will mail a written acknowledgment of your donation to you. The Center for Sex and Culture is a fiscal sponsor for Scarleteen.
- To donate securely by credit card, online check or account using PayPal: CLICK HERE. Donations made this way are not tax-deductible.
- To donate by check or money order directly: make checks payable to Scarleteen and send to: Scarleteen, 1752 NW Market Street #524, Seattle, WA, 98107. Donations made this way are not tax-deductible.
If you'd like to know more about who we are, what we do and why and how we do it, or how else your contribution will be utilized, we've provided the links below as great starting points. We're also always happy to answer any questions you may have directly, including discussing larger contributions or private grants: feel free to email us anytime.