I was a freshman girl.
They were senior boys.
We had grown up together. Our families were friends at the church. We traveled to many camps and retreats together.
We were friends.
I trusted them.
But all that changed after one annual youth group event.
It was tradition, every year on that winter day we had a day off of school, our youth group would journey up the mountain for a day of fun together. It was a long day and we would head home after dinner, after the sun had long set over the mountains. We piled into the vans and cars and I choose go in the van with my guy friends for the ride back to the church. You know one of those large 12+ passenger vans with bucket seats. We sat all the way in the back because they were the senior boys and that was the cool place to sit. The leaders were in the front seats unaware of what was about to happen in the back row of the church van.
It had been a long, fun day in the mountains and I was tired, I didn’t think twice about my surroundings and I fell asleep during the long drive back. It was a week or two later that I found out what happened in the back of that church van when I fell asleep. One of the boys I knew, I had grown up with, a guy I trusted took advantage of me by fondling me. The other guys in the back who had not fallen asleep, encouraged this boy to see how long and much he could do to me.
I share my story with you not so we can pick apart my choices as a freshman girl, not to condemn these boys choices, not to criticize what my youth leaders did or did not do, but to remind us of the importance we carry as youth leaders of teenage girls in this broken world.
Here are some good reminders for us as female youth leaders:
1. Truth is even good Christian boys are tempted and make poor choices. We cannot be naive and think that something like this wouldn’t happen in our group. At the same time it doesn’t mean that we cannot trust our boys either. Set up safe guards for your girls.
2. Spread out! Yes the back of the van, room or wherever is the furthest from adults is going to be the cool spot. But if that spot exists keep an eye on who is there. If you see that there is one girl with a bunch of guys send a girl student leader to join them, or go hang out in the cool spot too.
3. We need to be AWARE. Aware of the settings the girls in our groups are placing themselves in while under our care. Aware of those dark corners, or aware when students are missing from the group for a while. Aware when that flirty, innocent girl is enjoying the attention of the cute boys and caught up in it.
4. You can never be too safe. Yes you may need to make a rule or decision to remove a girl from an unhealthy setting she has placed herself in. She will be upset at you for ruining her opportunity with those guys. But I wish someone had seen the unhealthy choice I placed myself in and upset me that night by making me ride home somewhere else.