She was nine years old when she learned that her body was valuable. The brother that she trusted – that she loved – that she adored and admired – was the one who would sell her out. Gang bait. Her vulnerable, beautiful body turned to commodity as they forced themselves into her room and onto her. At nine years old. To earn their rite into the brotherhood that the gang offered to them, they violated this precious treasured one. And the family that she had so trusted was now, simply not safe anymore.
She was twelve years old when it began. The looks. The touching. The things that made her stomach churn and her soul tremble. She begged for it to stop, but no one seemed to listen. Not even her mother. She said that she was “just a liar.” “How could you possibly blame him?” He gave her money and clothes, with false promises to do even more – if she would just keep quiet. And being quiet wasn’t so hard anymore. Because who would believe her anyway? Certainly, not her mother. The older man of the family would continue his game. She only wished that she could somehow escape from his hand. But she couldn’t make it stop. No one could. Her body was simply not hers anymore.
They were teenagers when they discovered that their bodies were exchangeable. Exchangeable for payment. Available to pay rent. No one asked them though – what they wanted. They were simply told by their grandmother, their guardian, “This is what you must do if you want some place to live. We don’t have no money, but you’ve got this. And when you give them what they want, we will have the money to live.” And so they did. No questions asked. Bodies traded for shelter – and by the one who was supposed to protect them. But if she says it’s what they must do, than who were they to complain? Besides, where would they even go?
The stories are numerous of the girls of our communities. Beautiful, precious girls who have discovered that their bodies can so easily be exchanged for a dollar. Touches go unnoticed and prayers of mercy and begging for freedom seems to die in the air. The moment the words are even spoken.
For these girls, Daughters of Worth began. In 2015, I began listening to the heart-cries of precious girls who were simply fighting for their lives, their freedom and their futures. And as they spoke their truth, their experiences, I soon discovered how many of our treasured girls of our communities simply do not know of their worth. They have bought into the lie that their lives are really not their own and that their bodies are not to be cherished or valued. These beautiful girls have fallen prey to one of the oldest and most vulnerability-seeking lies: You are simply not good enough. And the moment that one begins to accept this lie as truth, everything changes. Hope is suddenly gone.
While the whispers of the world plague her soul and battle for her mind, Daughters of Worth intervenes – to find her in the shadows -the spaces that she is hiding from the world and most often, even herself. For it is here where Shame pushes us into the corner and screams to our souls that we simply do not matter. We are not worthy. We are not enough. And for the majority of the girls that we serve, they have bought into this lie. They have come to believe that there is no purpose left for their lives. And it is here – in this place – where we must fight.
Although we have six signature programs that reach across four counties of Eastern NC and serve over 1,000 girls each month, our core mission of education, equipping and empowering girls is all about hope. It’s all about restoration and redemption – bringing her from the broken pieces of her life directly into the heart of hope, love and grace. For it is here where everything will change. It is here where she will find her worth again. It is here when she will reveal that her life has a plan greater than herself. It is here that she will truly realize that she is so much stronger than she thinks, and she can truly overcome and create the life of her dreams. It is here where her life is transformed and redeemed.
In Isaiah 61, the Promise declares:
Beloved one, I do not know your story or your heart. I do not know the places of Shame that you wrestle with in your own life or the lies that the enemy desires to torment you with in your own mind. Yet, what I do know is that we have a Grace-Giver and Love-Creator who is seeking to call His beloved ones out of the shadows. He is seeking to call us out of our secret places of shame and guilt. He is seeking to restore our hearts, to bring freedom, to bind up our deepest wounds and to redeem our souls. He is seeking to heal us from the places where we question if we are enough – if we have what it takes. He is seeking to bring us closer to Himself and to trade us ashes for beauty and joy for our sorrow. We simply must give Him access to the shattered pieces, so that He can redeem our story and bring healing to our lives.
- Liz Liles, Founder of Daughters of Worth
Liz Liles is the Founder/CEO of Daughters of Worth, a non-profit organization that exists to educate, equip, and empower girls of all ages to become strong women of influence in their communities. It is her life prayer that each day of her life would be poured out in service to others. She is the author of Broken and Beautiful: From Ashes to Beauty Rising and an inspirational speaker. Liz has found her home in Greenville, NC and can typically be found wherever coffee is served!