Beverly Hadland has being bringing abstinence message to schools for 25 years
Straight Talk, a charity geared towards promoting authentic love and abstinence, is turning 25 this year. The head and founder Beverly Hadland was inspired to spread this message into high schools by her own experiences.
A feminist in her youth and raised by a single mother, Hadland had had two abortions and lived for 5 years with a communist man. 9 weeks before she was to be married to him, she had a dramatic conversion. While working as manager in a restaurant, she hired a devout Christian girl who responded with love to her negative remarks. She later read the Bible and realized that it answered all of the questions she had, and that God loved her. The next morning, Hadland said she felt “cleansed,” wanted to move out of the house, and would no longer sleep with her fiancé. Her fiancé told her that she would have to choose between God and him. So she signed over everything to him and moved out of the house.
She joined a church at Waterloo where she became involved in the pro-life cause and sought post-abortion healing. She started to share her story in 1982 – only one year after her conversion – and travelled across Canada to speak about it. Trained as an abortion recovery counsellor, Hadland opened an abortion outreach centre in 1984. She could not, however, get charity status and or get into schools as a pro-life speaker. In 1986, after her organization, along with a similar one in Calgary, were rejected for charity status, Hadland established Straight Talk Youth Counselling of Ontario.
Before Canada’s abortion law was struck down, Morgentaler was invited to speak at the University of Waterloo. He was promoting a book he wrote about the right to be sexually active, as well as the right to taking the birth control pill and having an abortion. Hadland was puzzled as to why he was talking about a right to sex, and she soon realized that most abortions came from single people. This inspired her to change the focus of her activities to abstinence before marriage to address one of the root causes of abortion. Since then, she has succeeded in changing some people’s behaviours and even had some individuals cancel their abortions because of her. Hadland is reassured that through this activism, the deaths of her two children were “not a waste.”
One of the initial challenges of Straight Talk, her new organization, was getting charity status. It was initially turned down for being too “political,” but Hadland’s lawyer took on the case for free. It was a success, and Straight Talk gained charity status in 1988. An affiliate in Owen Sound was also instituted, but there was too much backlash so organizers allowed its charity status to be revoked in 2002. Straight Talk also initially lost a significant number of supporters after Hadland, who is not a Catholic, opposed all artificial contraception in the name of “truth.”
Hadland told The Interim that she delivers a “positive, uplifting message” that saving sex until marriage leads to a more satisfying life to primarily youth groups and Grade 9 and 10 high school students. She draws on multimedia presentations and her own life, and is vetted as a speaker for Catholic schools – in fact, she spoke at all the Catholic high schools in Hamilton last year. In the past, she also delivered her presentation at public schools, but it is now harder because in order to be vetted and have the ability to approach schools, she had to agree to refer students for abortion and birth control counselling. Hadland refused, so she can only be invited if someone from the school itself takes the initiative.
However, there has been an increase in interest, even from public schools, since Hadland added the topics of pornography, cyber bullying, and sexting to her presentations. She said that she decided to include pornography because children are getting addicted to it before having sex (at 10 to 12 years old) and it “totally distorts reality.” Oxytocin, a hormone released after viewing porn, makes them become “bonded” to it, as opposed to developing healthy relationships. Hadland included cyber bullying and sexting because of requests she received due to the increasing attention these two issues were receiving. It fits into her message because it is “another aspect of unhealthy relationships.”
Hadland employs part-time staff and has two young women – Crystal and Danielle – who assist her in some of her presentations. She has also inspired and trained other young people to spread her message. Hadland receives volunteers from Grade 12 who are selected by their schools. Since her office is in Grimsby, there are challenges accommodating volunteers coming from Toronto, so she plans to work on setting up online connections to decrease the amount of travel time.
Hadland has also written several books: Hang on to Your Hormones (a national bestseller), Creative Dating, and How to Find Authentic Love. She is currently working on updating Hang on to Your Hormones and a biography. In 2003, she was given the “Woman of the Year” award by REAL Women of Canada.
She said that Catholic high schools have seen some improvement in the teaching of sex education while public schools have not. In general, compared to the 80s when she started delivering her message, more students are graduating high school without having vaginal sex and there are lower pregnancy and abortion rates among teens. However, non-vaginal sex and sexually transmitted disease rates are increasing. Hadland believes this is because pornography promotes non-vaginal sex and teens see it as a way to embrace “experimentation” while keeping their “virginity.” Kids see pornography as sexual education, totally neglecting the “spiritual” side.
To Hadland, the most rewarding aspect of her job is when young people thank her for the presentations she gives and when she sees that what she tells them has an impact. When she has trouble getting into schools, it tends to be the administration that poses the greatest barrier. She recounted an experience in Newfoundland where she got a very cool reception – she was not even provided with a water bottle. Despite the hostility of the administration, she got a standing ovation at the end of her presentation from the students. “Because the students want me, I can deal with administration,” she said. Beverly Hadland may be contacted through her website http://www.straight-talk.com.