Vella is born in a world where she's expected to have this terrible thing happen to her. She's supposed to treat it like an honor because she's a young pretty girl, and that's what the prettiest young girl's do.
Shay is born into a world that coddles him. like all good people he wants to help others, but his way of living is so far removed that when he gets the chance we discover that what he was being led to believe was "helping" is actually this terrible thing.
I really don't think it's a coincidence that Shay is a white male and Vella is a black female.
I could be over-thinking this, but I really started to believe it when I found I could really identify with Shay. (Especially after so many years of being essentially a shut in.) when I "got out" it really surprised me to find out hardships people went through that I hadn't even thought about, and how I was inadvertently making things worse for some people because of what things in society led me to believe about my role in life.