Today, I’m handing over to Jules Hillier, Brook’s Interim Deputy Chief Exec, who is guest-blogging her thoughts on the presence of Life on the Sexual Health Forum.
“Like many, my first response to the news that Life had been given a place on the Government’s Sexual Health Forum was a sharp intake of breath and a rush of anger. There’s so much history between the pro-choice and the anti-choice movement and much of it is bitter and personal.
Anyone who’s been on the sharp end of anti-choice campaigning tactics – the call I had when I was pregnant saying they hoped my baby died of a sex infection, having to draft ‘parcel bomb policies’ to protect staff in the 90s, the name-calling (we’re baby-killers, pornographers and child sex advocates, don’t you know), the intimidation of young people accessing services - will struggle with the idea of sharing a platform with any anti-choice organisation.
When my first flush of anger subsided, I reflected for a while to see if I could find a less emotional reaction, and I thought about Brook’s work. Here, through our education work, we aim to help young people to set, understand and respect boundaries, to develop and hold values, to negotiate relationships and to build a level of self esteem and self confidence which will enable them to navigate whatever life and relationships throw at them.
We do all this, and more, not just because we are passionate, committed and motivated to improve young people’s lives, but also because we have the evidence which tells us that this work, combined with our clinical, advice, information and counselling services will make a difference.
It would be a shame, wouldn’t it, I told myself, wagging my finger, if we weren’t able to adopt the same approach to difficult situations as adults that we aim to help young people develop through our work.
So, I took a deep breath, thought about the 260,000 young people who come to us for help and support every year, thought about the 600 talented and committed staff who work with them and thought about all the other excellent organisations in the field who make a difference to young people’s lives every day. And I realised that all that good work will continue regardless of the make up of a government forum on which Brook still has a confident, values driven, evidence based position. And from that position, we can ensure that the voices of young people are put front and centre and their needs are always paramount, just as we have always done.”