From Guest Contributor: Nancy Alcorn
Today, five-year-old girls are being treated for eating disorders. The newest growth segment in the lingerie market is for prepubescent girls. Researchers view dieting and body image issues as the norm among pre-adolescents and adolescent girls, and 22 percent of teen girls say they have sent or posted nude images of themselves to a guy they like.
What is going on? There is a strong false message that our young girls are hearing. And unfortunately, girls in our own neighborhoods and city are not immune. I know. Every day, I see girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds and faiths walk through the doors of Mercy Ministries’ Nashville home as the broken products of a culture that teaches them they are only worth as much as their bodies – and their bodies will never be good enough.
The early and over-sexualization of our girls is creating young women who have shattered self-images and a disproportionate over-emphasis on their sexuality –even when they are too young to know what sex is. We must take responsibility now for changing this toxic message. But how? The answer does not lie in legislation that regulates the toys, clothing, TV shows, music, and messages marketed to them. Nor does it lie in sheltering them to the point that they may as well be locked in a closet. The answer lies in beginning a dialogue with our girls to help them learn their true worth and the appropriate context for God’s good gift of sexuality. If we do not help our girls to recognize the signals our culture is sending and understand them as the lies that they are, they will absorb a twisted, harmful message: that the key to happiness, success, love and self-worth is to accept the sexualized roles society thrusts upon them.
At Mercy Ministries, we have seen the remarkable changes that happen once this dialogue begins. Mercy Ministries is a free-of-charge, voluntary Christian residential program for young women aged 13-28 who face life-controlling issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, depression and unplanned pregnancy; or who have been victims of physical and sexual abuse, including sex trafficking. Employing a counseling curriculum that combines Biblical principles with best practice clinical interventions, Mercy Ministries has seen thousands of lives transformed as harmful cultural messages are replaced with the messages of purpose, freedom and unconditional love. The girls and young women we have worked with over the past 30 years have told us countless times that an understanding of their true worth in God was essential to breaking the cycle of objectification.
We’re proud of our work, but we realize there are many more girls and families that need God’s help.. To help start the conversation, Mercy Ministries is launching a weekly podcast series – MercyTalk with Nancy Alcorn – hosted by the organization’s founder and president. Beginning tomorrow, mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends will be able to visit MercyTalk.org to join Nancy as she addresses difficult, real-life issues with straight talk, practical advice and scriptural insight, while exploring major moral themes emphasized in our counseling model. We invite you to join us.
Christy Singleton is the executive director of Mercy Ministries of America, a nonprofit headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. with homes in Nashville, Monroe, La., St Louis, Mo., and Lincoln, Calif.