There is a small group of people surrounding me at a party. Politely, as custom dictates to the strangers here, one person will begin the inevitable question “So, what do you do for a living?” As the question rolls around the group and comes closer to myself, I consistently have two streams of thought the first stream is more like an enormous ocean swelling with excitement. Like a parent, waiting, hoping with paws in pounce position to talk about their children, I too wait to brag about my “kids.” I want to tell anybody who will listen “did you know that one of our girls hugged a male care-giver today for the first time since arriving, or “did you hear that one of our girls started dreaming of the future, she wants to become a teacher” I say with pride. The other stream is a river really, a tumultuous dark river that echoes “don’t ask me, don’t ask me” this reaction may seem odd, but I will explain. There are many people who have never heard of child sex trafficking, and once they learn of its depth and magnitude, it can be devastating. It feels a bit like saying “Hey, theirs kids being brutally enslaved and raped repeatedly everyday, would you like some more cheese for your crackers?” After the shock, generally there is one question that always comes up “Is ________ really possible? You can fill in the blank with either restoration or abolition. This is a very serious question. Ask yourself, do you really believe that the abolition of sexual slavery and trafficking is possible? Do you believe that a child or adult who has been victim to the most heinous forms of torture and abuse can have a restored life? Sometimes I feel like my answer can change daily depending on the latest horror story or story of triumph, but even though there are times of hesitation, my heart always leads to “yes, yes it is possible.”
I think the magnitude of the problem begs the question. There are millions of predators, millions of victims, and billions of dollars in this story, but I remember the question can never be viewed through the millions of people, but only through, the one person. After you have seen the one, danced with the one, buried the one, the millions are there, but not as an insurmountable mass. The millions suddenly have faces, you begin to see them as individuals. This seeing takes faith because once we see the face of the one instead of the millions, there is a call to action and responsibility. This can seem frightening, but the beautiful thing is; the weight of the millions will not crush you but the face of the one can change your life, and you in turn can possibly change theirs. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
This “yes,” yes to abolition, yes to restoration is why I do what I do. These are our kids, and I can’t wait to tell you about them at the next party.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Have you seen hope? I have. I’ve seen children dance and dream. I’ve seen girls who were sex slaves become part of a family in a safehome, and when they were ready to leave, they left to start a safehome of their own, because they know what hope is.
She was 11. Her early story might sound like your own. A father that seemed to care less and less each day until that day he cared so little, he never returned home.
She was 11 still. Here her story may differ from yours, but maybe you know the darkness of abandonment. Her mother, having no money even for food, crossed into a bordering country looking for work. This child was left alone, her days spent searching for food or trying to sleep when the hunger was unbearable. The only family member in town rejected her.
She will always remember 11. Two men raped her in a field, and left her to cry and bleed. Maybe you know rape. Maybe you know that rape steals your breath. It’s replaced with steel that hardens you from the inside so you don’t shatter into a million pieces lying under the sun bleeding in the middle of a field.
She ran to her only family member, he yelled at her; the steel grew harder. He hit her and the steel replaced her dreams of being safe ever again. When her mother returned the child was taken to a safehome, so that she would not be sold as a sex slave.
By the time I saw her, the steel had taken her eyes; no indication of ever being 11. Instead she had no age, no femininity, no voice. She walked around the other girls like a nervous animal, frightened, angry and envious of any thing that resembled happiness.
She knows hope now. She is no longer 11. She has begun to bathe herself again. She has started to wear dresses. She will talk a little about her past, and she even dreams. She is learning to breathe and to cry again. Steel corrodes through air and water, breath and tears.
Now when I see her, she takes my breath away.
Now when I see her, she takes my breath away.