Sexually abused, she now aids teensThere once was a girl who loved the pasqueflower. She loved the flower’s dark purple color and the smooth texture that was much like velvet.
One day the girl used a plucked and dried pasqueflower as a bookmark. But the color wasn’t the same as it used to be. The girl felt truly sorry for the flower, but there was nothing she could do to restore it to life.
When the girl was 10 years old, she was raped by an older boy living next door. She was sexually abused without knowing what had happened or how serious it was.
When she got older she was told that her menstrual cycle was irregular and, worse, that she was sterile.
With great difficulty and against all odds, she managed to give birth to a child. After the delivery, the young woman’s uterus was removed and she suffered unbearable pain. She was 29.
All of this reminded the girl of the pasqueflower she had plucked years before. But she could not bend her head like the plucked pasqueflower. She wanted to tell her story to young people who suffer from the sort that she had endured involuntarily.
“When I was sitting around the house with an empty look [due to the rape], my mother came back home and noticed what had happened to me and she embraced me hard and cried for a long time,” says Koo Seong-ae, 48. “My mother said, ‘You have done nothing wrong. It was that neighbor boy who did wrong.’”
Says Ms. Koo: “That single remark changed my life.”
Ms. Koo, a well-known counselor on sex education, has recently published a guidebook on sex for teenagers. Most of the material in the book draws from her own experience. The title of the book is “It’s not your fault.”
“When a child is sexually molested, many mothers ask the child, ‘Why didn’t you fight back?’ says Ms. Koo. “Or they scold the child with, ‘I told you never to go outside late at night.’ But harsh remarks only drive a stake into a child’s heart, and that can last for eternity.
“Those harsh comments wind up placing all the blame on the child.”
Ms. Koo says the wise response from her mother freed her from years of disturbing memories and guilt.
After high school, Ms. Koo entered Yonsei University, majoring in nursing. Upon graduation she worked as a nurse in a hospital dedicated to women who just gave birth.
Ms. Koo began lecturing on the beauties and proper perceptions of sex 15 years ago when Korea was still so conservative that few dared to speak out on the subject openly.
In 1998, Ms. Koo began sex education lectures on television and gained wide recognition. She made it clear that sex was not a subject that adults should be hiding from their kids, but rather a topic that parents should freely talk about it and lead children to in a sensitive and informed way.
“Even with all the fame I gained, my heart still ached when I thought of all the sex-related troubles that teenagers went through,” says Ms. Koo.
Two years ago Ms. Koo left her job at a youth counseling center in Seoul and reduced her appearance on television. Instead, she started to counsel teenagers via her own Web site at www.9sungae.com. But Ms. Koo says the sex problems among today’s teenagers are much worse than she ever imagined.
“The body is seriously damaged when sexually abused at an early age,” says Ms. Koo. “According to experts, sex before the age of 19 can cause serious health problems even if the person only had sex once.”
Committed to her cause, this month Ms. Koo is planning to open a facility of her own at Yeonhui-dong in northern Seoul with the money she collected from her television lectures.
The facility is a small, three-room apartment, but Ms. Koo hopes that here she can heal young teenagers whose bodies have been damaged by sexual abuse, by using traditional herbs, which Ms. Koo personally tried in her youth. She says herbs helped her after being raped.
She also has plans to deliver the babies of young girls who have nowhere else to go.
Says Koo Seong-ae, “There’s no life that is not precious.”
by Moon Kyung-ran