Rebecca Hagelin

Julia is a fairly typical 16-year-old girl: she is crazy about boys, concerned about being fashionable, doesn't appreciate homework, loves pizza - and she "cuts".

For those who aren't familiar with the term - and whose imaginations might be thinking the worst about what it means to "cut" - I'm afraid I only have very sad news: "cutting" means you take a knife or razor and use it to actually dig into your own flesh.

This barbaric practice is common among today's precious teen women. Some school counselors estimate that the majority of middle and high school aged girls have engaged in such self-mutilation.

When I first heard about the bizarre behavior I must admit that I assumed it was rare, only done by a few girls with severe mental issues who dress in black Goth clothes accented by equally black eye shadow and studded lips. Yes, many of these girls who appear to be troubled do cut - but so do many of the young women who look like "the girl next door".

Why on earth do our little girls maim themselves? Much of it comes as a result of the hardness that often follows a severely broken heart. Some have grown so numb to the onslaught of abuse and emotional pain that they inflict intense physical pain on their bodies and watch their own blood flow to simply remind themselves that they are alive. Others do it in order to build their immunity to pain in general - they have to find a way to distract themselves from the ever-growing, gut-wrenching emotional trauma over their broken families.

Author Jane Alison's essay published in the New York Times on March 1, 2009, adapted from her forth-coming memoir, "The Sisters Antipodes" due out this month, is a heart-wrenching account of the tragic consequences of divorce on children. She reflects on her own struggles to cope with the fact that her dad left not just his wife, but his own daughters to marry another woman. She explained her and her sister's desperate efforts to cope with the abandonment, "....we tried to make ourselves valuable - writing, dreaming, trying to earn our own father's love. Or, as we tried to feel nothing at all, through drinking, cutting, men and sex."

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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