Saying No Seven Different Ways

Teenage pregnancy rates are soaring nationwide, resulting in heartbreak and chaos in the inner cities. But some young Washington, D.C., women are learning how to stand against the trend and start a new life. And they're doing it not through yet another government program but by a volunteer effort to mentor young women one by one. For years the nation's capital has led the country in the rate of unwed teen births. In the late 1980s Elayne Bennett—wife of educator William J. Bennett—responded by founding a sexual abstinence program. And now a recently released study shows that this program, called Best Friends, has been remarkably successful and could serve as a model for the rest of the nation. The study found that of the 88 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who participated in the Best Friends program just 10 percent had sexual relations over the past year—resulting in only one out-of-wedlock birth. Compare that to a study in D.C. public schools that found that an astounding 72 percent of the girls in the same age group had had sexual relations over a year's time. The tragedy is that many of these young women regret their actions. A 1994 Roper survey found that 62 percent of sexually experienced high school girls wished they had waited. And sadly, when they do marry, the odds are against women who engage in pre-marital relations. The National Survey of Family Growth reports that nonvirgins have a divorce rate 71 percent higher than virgins. Programs like Best Friends help young women avoid future pitfalls by teaching them how to resist the sexual pressures they face today. The program is privately funded and operates in several states. Of the 400 girls who have completed the program nationwide, just one percent have become pregnant. One young woman told the researchers how the Best Friends program helped her resist a young man's advances: "I'm really glad," she said, "I can say no in seven different ways." These teens are yearning for an understanding of sexuality that goes beyond mere physical and emotional urges. As another young woman in Washington put it, "We're not just a bunch of weak, throbbing hormones [with] no control over ourselves." This is precisely the message of the Bible, which teaches that sexuality is meant to be directed towards a higher goal. It is part of the comprehensive pattern for human life, designed to nurture a deep bond between husband and wife. That bond becomes a secure umbrella that protects children as they grow up and ties the nuclear family into a wider network of family members and relatives. And it nurtures a sense of responsibility for the entire community and for the future. Understanding the purpose of sexuality helps teens to resist the pressure to indulge their youthful emotional and physical impulses. Christians should give their wholehearted support to volunteer mentoring programs like Best Friends that promote abstinence, helping teens place their sexuality within the rich tapestry of God's overall purpose for their lives Programs which give young women the confidence to just say "no."


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary