I was seven years old and living in a small town near Lake Tahoe called Incline Village. It was early evening and I was walking down the sidewalk alone. The next thing I new a car pulled over and the passenger door opened. A man grabbed me and pulled me into the car and shoved me under the dash board. All I remember was the two men fighting while I screamed and yelled. I heard what must have been my guardian angel tell me to fight. The next thing I knew the car door opened and I was thrown out and they sped away.
I was one of the lucky ones. I’m a mother of seven now, and although none of us can ever know why people decide to commit such evil acts, I’ve seen the development of certain cultural trends in my lifetime that coincide too well with the increase in the number of similar crimes committed against children. Some of these trends may seem, at least on the surface, to be quite innocent, such as the teenage fascination with celebrity role models, but a deeper look should give us all cause to pause.
I was born in California but my mother, who was somewhat of a free spirit, moved a lot which meant we never stayed in one place very long. I was living in California during my Junior High years when “Madonna” was the latest craze. It was the “Like a Virgin” era. For those of you who remember it, it had a lot of lace, big earrings, sweater skirts, high heeled pumps and leg warmers or tights that had the feet cut off. Half shirts were really popular too but I could never wear those, I liked food too much.
Twenty years later, celebrities are still dictating style to girls, but the clothing is riskier and the targeted audience is getting younger and younger. Girls are emulating today’s celebrity role models just like they’ve always done, but many of today’s idols are practically ‘tweens themselves.
Brittany Spears and Christina Aquillera were just 11 years old when they first appeared on Disney. The risqué fashions these new ‘tween role models introduced dictated the style for millions of girls. These stars sell their signature fashions on exclusive product lines in every outlet store in America. As a result, every girl from coast to coast has access to High School Music apparel or the like and, in case you haven’t noticed, each line usually includes very tiny two piece swimming suits for girls as young as four and six years old.
As the standards of modesty have been lowered as well as the marketing to younger and younger girls, a dangerous combination has occurred. As we undress our children more and more every year with the styles and fashions of the 21st century, is it any wonder that we find ourselves in a culture where more and more little girls and boys are being kidnapped, abused, and murdered? One out of four men struggle with pornography addiction and child pornography is one of the fastest growing segments of this depraved market.
It’s not surprising when you consider what has been happening in our culture during the last 20 years. In 1979, when I was watching fashion and celebrities and choosing to dress like them, it was not because they were marketing to me. After all I was only nine. Yet today, the marketing of celebrities and their fashion lines are deliberately targeting second and third graders. This is a new phenomenon, and along with it has come an alarming increase in the number of sexual crimes committed against children in the United States.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in five girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood. Child sex offenses are among the fastest growing offenses of the Federal criminal from 1994 to 2006, with these crimes increasing by an average of 15 percent every year!
Is it logical to infer that a society which exposes more and more flesh at younger and younger ages could result in tempting persons struggling with pornography or pedophilia to crime? I think yes.
How can we be outraged at pedophilia and the disgusting industry exploiting children on Internet sites but then go and buy our sweet six year old daughter a small bikini for the public pool? It only takes a few clicks on the Internet to find a long list of sexual predators living in our own neighborhoods. Can we afford to forget that the person buying these perverted images may also be taking his or her kids to the same local swimming pool?
While we must be careful never to the blame the victims of these sordid crimes, today’s parent can never be too vigilant about the latest ‘tween fashion craze and what kind of attention these frequently immodest outfits may be drawing to our children. By allowing them to dress in these scanty fashions, is our child unwittingly becoming an occasion of sin for others?
The Baltimore Catechism defines the near occasions of sin as “all the persons, places and things that may easily lead us into sin . . .”
It’s a tough question for a parent to face, but face it we must if our children, and our society, can become a safer place. Are we allowing our children to wear clothing that reveals so much of their bodies that we provide the very occasion for others to fall? The frailty of human nature can cause those viewing especially our daughters to see them as objects instead of the child of God that they are.
Our children are God’s most beautiful creation. We all are, because we are all made in His image and likeness.
We love our neighbor as ourselves when we realize that we do not even want to entice a situation, feeling or any action in another human being that could bring about an occasion of sin for them. How do we stop ourselves and others from seeing or using people as objects? We do this by being careful not to dress ourselves, or our precious children, as objects.
I want my five daughters to find young men who love them for who they are; who respect them, protect them and are men of character and integrity. But the only way a young man will ever be able to see the person my daughter truly is will be if I give those future young men the opportunity by removing the distraction of immodest dress. Essentially, this is what these fashions have become – a distraction that keeps people from seeing the person in Christ, the soul created by God inside each one of us. Pope John Paul II refers to this in Theology of the Body as “The peace of the interior gaze…” it was how Adam and Eve looked at one another before the fall. They were naked without shame because they saw the person created by God not an object created for use by another.
How we portray ourselves to the world is an opportunity to bring someone closer to who(the person) we are instead of what(the exterior body male or female) we are. It will also bring them closer to Christ because when we allow others to know us for who we really are, children of God, then and only then will we truly have the opportunity to be the light of Christ to others.
For more information about child safety, visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at http://www.missingkids.com/
Copyright 2009 Christina King