Monday, September 8, 2014

The Parable of the Prodigal Son/Daughter

 I'm so excited to begin the new journey to a new blog and a new perspective.  I won't really be writing on the subject of just trafficking anymore, but given my past, and of course my work, it will obviously come up, and I do love talking about it!  

  Today I want to tell you about church, and the awesome, and heartbreaking story I heard, based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Please bear with me and read entirely through, I promise it's worth it.  My faith won't be a common theme, but a theme in my life none-the-less.  

 My pastor ended his sermon today first with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and then an interpretation of the parable.  I had already related to the parable, but when he added in the story about the Prodigal Daughter, I broke down.  First, allow me to summarize the story of the Son:

 In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son.  There's a father, and he has two sons.  The younger of the two sons goes to his father and demands his portion of the inheritance of the family farm.  "11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them." He then took his inheritance, auctioned his third of the family farm, and left.  Mind you, when he asked for his inheritance, he essentially told his father he wanted him to be dead, and since he wasn't, getting his share was the next best thing.  He then went off traveling, squandering his money, and eventually finding himself trying to survive by living in a pig stye, starving."13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything."  In a moment of clarity, the Son comes to his senses, realizes his betrayal, and vows to go home and tell his father how sorry he is.  He intends to serve his father, earning his keep and food. "17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father." Upon coming home, the father runs out to him, embracing him, and throwing a grand party to welcome him home, despite all he'd done "“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

  The story goes on to tell about the older brother, and how upset he is, but that's not the point of what I'm sharing today.  Next I want to share with you the story of Jenny, the Prodigal Daughter.  This was the point that I broke down crying, in total relation to the story.  I heard my own story being read, and yet, it wasn't mine.  

 “A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to over-react to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. ‘I hate you!’ she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away.

She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail the gangs, the drugs, and the violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.

Her second day there she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. He offers her a ride, buys her lunch, arranges a place for her to stay. He gives her some pills that make her feel better than she’s ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: her parents were keeping her from all the fun.

The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car –she calls him ‘Boss’– teaches her a few things that men like. Since she’s underage, men pay a premium for her. She lives in a penthouse, and orders room service whenever she wants. Occasionally she thinks about the folks back home, but their lives now seem so boring and provincial that she can hardly believe she grew up there.

She has a brief scare when she sees her picture printed on the back of a milk carton with the headline “Have you seen this child?” But by now she has blond hair, and with all the makeup and body-piercing jewelry she wears, nobody would mistake her for a child. Besides, most of her friends are runaways, and nobody squeals in Detroit.

After a year the first sallow signs of illness appear, and it amazes her how fast the boss turns mean. “These days, we can’t mess around,” he growls, and before she knows it she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but they don’t pay much, and all the money goes to support her habit. When winter blows in she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores. “Sleeping” is the wrong word – a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circle her eyes. Her cough worsens.

One night as she lies awake listening for footsteps, all of a sudden everything about her life looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty and she’s hungry. She needs a fix. She pulls her legs tight underneath her and shivers under the newspapers she’s piled atop her coat. Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single image fills her mind: of May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball.

God, why did I leave, she says to herself, and pain stabs at her heart. My dog back home eats better than I do now. She’s sobbing, and she knows in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home.

Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.”

It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Traverse City, and during that time she realizes the flaws in her plan. What if her parents are out of town and miss the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? And even if they are home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. She should have given them some time to overcome the shock.

Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault; it’s all mine. Dad, can you forgive me?” She says the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearses them. She hasn’t apologized to anyone in years.

The bus has been driving with lights on since Bay City. Tiny snowflakes hit the pavement rubbed worn by thousands of tires, and the asphalt steams. She’s forgotten how dark it gets at night out here. A deer darts across the road and the bus swerves. Every so often, a billboard. A sign posting the mileage to Traverse City Oh, God.

When the bus finally rolls into the station, its air brakes hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice over the microphone, “Fifteen minutes, folks. That’s all we have here.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checks herself in a compact mirror, smooths her hair, and licks the lipstick off her teeth. She looks at the tobacco stains on her fingertips, and wonders if her parents will notice. If they’re there.

She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. Not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There, in the concrete-walls-and-plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads “Welcome home!”

Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know…”

He interrupts her. ‘Hush child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at home.’” - Philip Yancey

I cried tears of loss and desperation while listening to this.  It's such a beautiful story, the story of redemption, and returning home to people who love you unconditionally, and don't care what you've done, they're just happy you're home.  

  I had a flashback to the first time I'd come home after being raped, and had been handed the age old "self inflicted injury gets no sympathy."  I then thought back to the first time I'd been arrested, and after being released to my mother, having to sit opposite her, with her back turned to me, the whole way home from the courthouse. Then I remembered the shame and blame I'd been handed for my decisions that caused us to be in harm, and having to move.  All of this left me feeling empty.  Never having experienced the joy and love that "The Prodigals" experienced.  My heart was heavy. 

You won't often find me writing about my faith in Christ.  I sometimes struggle with this because most of fellow sisters and brothers are very open and loud and proud of their faith, and will tell anyone who is willing to listen, and even those who aren't.

  While I do have faith, I often try my best not to talk about it because I want it to remain quiet and humble.  I have issues with following the gospel as a Christian "should" and I spend more time worrying about being Christ-like.  My faith in Christ was slow growing, but once it hit, it was incredible.  What didn't hit was the religion He's associated with.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot I love about Christianity, but there's a lot that I don't.  Mostly, the judgement and condemnation.  I cannot get with the idea of hate and alienation.  I firmly believe that the ugliest thing on Earth is a human being without compassion.  

  I wanted to disclose all of the above, because as corny as it may sound, after all the memories flooded through me, I realized I'd finally come home when I regained my faith in Christ.  They weren't the arms I was expecting, and I didn't even realize it until today.  I've had my husband, and by extension his amazing family.  I've had my extended family, who've all been extremely patient and understanding, and most of all, forgiving. And I've had my friends, and my support system.  I've had my Sold No More team for over a year now.  But I didn't have that wholeness until today when I realized I have The Lord as well.  

  I could spend an entirely different post about the Grace I feel in my faith, and how beautiful and loving it is, but I won't, I promise LOL. I wanted badly to share this, to let everyone in on how beautiful this parable is, and how relatable it was.  Thank you for bearing with me!

Charlie Mackesy's The Prodigal Daughter

Rembrandt's The Prodigal Son



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Seasons of Change

 Mommy Just Wants to Save the World

  I want to begin this post by thanking all of my beautiful followers!  Friends, family and strangers alike, this blog happened because you all believed in me.  I initially began writing because I'd been interviewed for several magazine and news articles, and I was always left feeling triggered.  I'd "vomited" my story to these few journalists, and in the end, I felt unsatisfied knowing that after putting myself through all of that, I'd be getting a few square inches on a page.  I need an outlet to share my story, in it's entirety.  And I got that here!  It happened because so many had such beautiful faith in me.  I thank you all for that love and support. 

  Now that I've thanked's time to tell you the rest.  I've decided to change the blog.  You'll find that I've hidden most of the posts.  I decided to remove everything that includes portions of my story. I know this may be surprising, but I feel it's necessary to evolve.  I really love this damn blog and I am proud of it.  Unfortunately my work really took off, and it left me very little time for writing anymore (obviously, I've only post 4 times in 2014!).  However, this also gave me the opportunity to sit back and evaluate, and gain some clarity.  I am so ready to evolve, to begin a new chapter. 

  The part that really scares me about this is that my life may not be interesting enough for people to continue visiting the blog if they can revisit the posts about my past, but I'm taking the chance and praying for continued reading.  Obviously, I'm one of MILLIONS of mom-bloggers on the internet, as well as quite a few Survivor bloggers, so I can only pray that I find a niche.  

  In addition to taking down the posts, I also plan to change the Facebook page's name, to a public page for myself, as well as changing the title name of the blog.  We'll no longer be Mommy Just Wants to Save the World.  This saddens me, and excites me at the same time!  I'm obviously saddened because I've loved this blog since I came up with the concept.  It feels like a 4th child.  However, I'm excited for the evolution of me, and my writing, and the awesomeness I'll get involved in.  I really pray that those who have followed me the whole way through will continue to do so, and new readers will soon follow.  

  I'm not entirely sure what the new name will be, but I'd love to take votes!  (I'll have to figure out how to take a vote, probably on Facebook!)  

  So here's to new beginnings, evolution, and beautiful change. Thank you all so much for your love. 

I'll end with these gems, because reasons. ;)

If you've never visited Brave Girl's Club, go RIGHT NOW!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Please be Kind to Yourself"- my beautiful Grandmother

  It's been a fantastic relaxed few weeks.  Drew came home from his deployment Father's Day weekend, and it's been heaven since!  It's as though we were all holding our breath for 4 months, waiting for him to walk back through the door, and when he did, we finally exhaled.

  The kids have been ecstatic, but they were reserved for the first few days.  Not to mention they would freak out a little every time Drew would walk in a different room.  I'm thankful we decided to wait 3 weeks before taking a little weekend vacation with out the kiddos, they dealt with it a lot better than we anticipated.  And thank goodness we took that weekend!  It was gloriously relaxing!  We told the teens we were going to Phoenix (2 hours away) so that they wouldn't think we were immediately accessible for non-emergencies.  However, we drove 25 minutes north to the Foothills, and stayed in an Embassy Suites.  We were surrounded by mountain views, in a beautiful hotel, with a fantastic pool area, and FREE happy hour!!  Nothing beats that!  On our last night, a couple that we're friends with drove up and got a room across from us, and we swam and drank and ate dinner together, and it was so relaxing and enjoyable.  I'm looking forward to another weekend in the future, but I won't lie and say I didn't miss the kids in the meantime.

  Our typical day now consists of swimming in the kiddie pool in the driveway with the tent cover, grilling and watching Drew work on his bike while I work, or read, or write.  It's freaking glorious!!

  It's been almost 3 months since my last post, and one topic has been on my heart since I wrote about victim blaming and slut shaming, and my opinion on the harmful effects.  

  I would LOVE to tell you all I've gone above and beyond in my research on this subject...but I haven't.  In fact, I've done very little research on really anything in the last few weeks.  However, I'm coming up on the end of my lazy days, and I need to jump back in the saddle and get to work (like, actually work, not just going into the office and using the quiet time to catch up on my work.)

  What I have researched recently, and by research, what I really mean is the articles that pop up on my Facebook newsfeed, has left me both heart broken, and over joyed.  I am left heart broken when I continue to see everything from slut-shaming to fat-shaming, and unfortunately there is a lot in between (and some that include fat slut shaming).  What leaves me over joyed are articles and blog posts about women who have not only decided to say "Enough! Fuck the haters!" but also just really overcoming their inseuruitoes and not giving a damn about the people who are more insecure, and continue to feel the need to hurt others with their words.

  The reason this topic has really hit home lately is because I, finally, after 25 years, learned to love myself.
 It seems so simple, the act of loving oneself.  And yet, it is probably one of THE hardest fucking things I have ever done.  And everyday is a struggle.  Everyday, I look in the mirror and think "I have no right to wear this shirt, I look fat as fuck and even in a sack I'd look disgusting."  Well, not everyday, but some.  And if I'm not careful, it could most definitely occur everyday.  

  Despite the amount of complaining I did during the 4 months that Drew was deployed, something amazing happened.  I learned to love myself, I learned to become my own best friend, and I learned to appreciate the quiet moments in my mind.  Again, I know this seems so simple, but is so not simple.  Let us go back in time again, just for a moment, in order to really comprehend why getting to where I am was so fucking difficult:

* I grew up in abusive household, with 2 people who not only did not love themselves, but had difficulties loving my siblings and I.  In all fairness, I do believe we were loved, but as a parent, I know they could have loved us more, but didn't have the capacity.
I grew up Mormon, and my opinion may be my own, but when it comes to ass-backward sexual values, Mormons are at the top of my list.  Now before you proceed to rip me a new one, hear me out:  I'll keep this short because I intend to use this exact topic for my closing statement, BUT when it comes to teaching our children about the harmful effects of sexual relationships outside of marriage, Mormons and a few other concentrated groups of Christians fail at this topic.  And the ones who are trying to be more open and actually discuss the topic are doing so in a way that makes me cringe, and leaves me feeling what I've felt since I was 12: shame. 
* To get more into why the previous point effected me so badly, if you were to go back through my blog and read some of the earliest posts, you would read all about the story of how I lost my virginity.  You would also read about how that left me feeling, and how those feelings followed me into adulthood.  After I lost (had it stolen) my virginity, I felt immense shame.  Not only had my father instilled in me the idea of purity, but so had my upbringing in the church.  In fact, I was convinced I had killed my father, given that he died a month afterwards ( I mean, c'mon, I was fucking 12!).  And to make things exponentially worse, I was made to repent by my church bishop.  If the act of having my purity stolen and my father dying, this is was the traumatic event that created a waterfall affect in my scarred mind.  At this point, I was nothing but "a chewed up piece of gum".
* This is the point I began having sex with as many individuals as possible.  I mean that quite literally.  I would seek out sexual encounters with friends, friends of friends, friends of boyfriends, and strangers.  I used to believe I did this out of a desperate need to replace the need for a male in my life (a common misperception of the public for a girl's promiscuous behavior when there is no present father figure), but I honestly believe I did it simply to recreate the trauma of losing my virginity until I no longer felt any emotional connection to the experience.  It became a craving, like a physical addiction.  It also left me feeling shameless.   I had total and complete control over who I fell into bed with.  I had control in everything from who, to where and when.  And when I didn't fulfill me anymore, I moved on, and most of the time I was cruel.  I treated men like I'd been treated, and it left me feeling void.  I felt nothing.  When my first pimp approached me, I really believed I could do what he was asking because I'd been doing it, and I'd learned to shut down.  The difference was that I had no choice anymore.
* After I was rescued from the trafficking, I found myself in a long string of abusive relationships, and when I wasn't being abused, I was the abuser.  I cheated, and treated my boyfriends like shit.  I assumed these were healthy relationship patterns because it was better than I'd experienced before the trafficking.  Plus the guys were sticking around, so that was a bonus, right? No.
* When I finally noticed the kid who'd been looking at me all along, I rushed into a marriage based solely on the fact that he loved me "despite".  He loved me "despite" me having been a professional prostitute (don't hold that against me, I recognize I was a trafficking victim, but that revelation didn't happen until 3 years ago, we've been married 7).  God knows I love this man, but I never loved him this much until now.  Because I didn't love myself until now.   

  I spent 25 years not loving me.  And while it seems so simple, it so wasn't.  And it took being by myself for 4 months to do it.  I had to actually look in the mirror every morning instead of asking Drew's opinion on my appearance.  I got to read books, watch TV, go places, and they were all on my time and desire.  BTDubs, none of this is to say I liked when he was gone, because I absolutely did not, but I did have to learn to enjoy my time alone.  I had all the time (you know, when I wasn't working and being a mom ;) ) to think, to talk to myself (yes, I talk to myself) and to make my own decisions.  I haven't been alone...ever.  I've always been with  someone.  So to be alone was a very new and scary thing for me.  But I made it work...fuck it, I worked that shit.  And I did so beautifully.

  I get up everyday, look at myself in the mirror and think "You are beautiful, and you can wear that dress if you want.  In fact, go ahead and put on that 2 piece...just make sure you shave first."  Am I condoning obesity?  No, and I'm not condemning it either.  I love my body, and even when I don't, it's a temporary feeling.  When I get to the point of wanting to do something about it, it'll because I want to be healthy, not because I want to be fit and beautiful.  All the years since I started having children, all I've wanted is to be thin.  The truth is, I'll never be thin again.  Well, if I stop eating all but berries and nuts, and shoving chemical powdered shakes down my throat, and working out 6 hours a day I will be, but let's be honest here, life is so much more, and I want to enjoy it, not the backside of the guy at the gym.  I'll walk, and I'll watch my portions, and I'll buy 51% organic and non-GMO's, but I'll never be thin, and that's fine by me.  My kids prefer the pillow of my soft belly, and my husband loves my curves, so fuck being thin.  I can dress myself to flatter my existing body, and I can look at my naked, tiger striped self and appreciate the soft curves and valleys and hills that have become me.

  And if I could tell my 16 year old self anything it would be:

 "Stop worrying about how you look in that bikini, and enjoy it, it's the last time you'll ever look like that.  Break up with that dickhead, he treats you like shit, and after everything you've been through, you deserve the fucking world.  And when you do drop him, be alone! It won't be the end of the world, and you'll save yourself from a lot of scars and heartbreak if you just don't hook up with that next asshole.  

  Give yourself a break and stop worrying about the next 10 years.  I promise it gets better than this.  Find resources for homeless youth and stay the hell in school, because getting your GED is HARD!  Listen to the music, like really listen, dance in the rain and smell it and feel it and remember it. And for fucks sake, quit smoking!

 Lastly, that number of men you've had sex with? Lose it. Now.  It serves no purpose other than to remind you everyday of how little value you feel you have left.  Some of them fed you lies and told you were special, or that they'd stick around, or worst of all, that they loved you.  They were liars, and therefore, they mean nothing.  You are NOT worthless.  You are NOT a chewed piece of gum.  You are not any less human just because you've been violated, or believed in the wrong guy.  The things that you do with (or the things that have been done to) your body do not determine WHO you are.  What determines your worth and value are how much you love and appreciate yourself.  I wish I could save you 10 more years of pain and heartbreak, but when you DO realize these things, your life will be exponentially more beautiful.  You are beautiful sweet girl.  You are worth everything in the world and universe.  You have to be your own best friend and love yourself before you'll truly love anyone else, and accept the love being given to you.  This journey will be worth every single moment."

Here are some quotes from some amazing women who have messages for their 16 year old selves:

*Christan (32): "There's SO much ahead, have hope.  One day you'll love yourself, and appreciate the lessons in your journey."
*Christina (22): "Never count on someone else to love you, or to determine your self worth. Don't let the actions and opinions of others affect your confidence. You need to love and value yourself first. If you don't, then whoever your with isn't going to really love or value you either. But if you love yourself, and have confidence in yourself, everything else will fall into place."
*Amber (33): " STOP being scared. You are so much stronger & better than you give yourself credit for - you CAN do whatever you put your mind to. Don't let your fear control what you want.....if you do, you will always regret it. Believe in yourself and your dreams and just jump after ALL of them....not just the "attainable" ones."
*Adrienne: " Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you might not succeed. This doesn't mean you're a failure, this doesn't mean the effort wasn't worth it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to appreciate yourself, through success and failure."
*Carolyn: "Don't be lazy. Don't take the easy way because you're scared to fail. Knowing that you didn't even try is so much worse than failing. Also? That dude? Bad news."
*Christina: "I know you're going through so much bad right now, keep your head up. You're beautiful, smart, and have a wonderful head on your shoulders. Don't let what anybody says about your appearance, attitude, or self worth bother you because you will one day learn the none of it is true. 
One day the love of your life will be that one person who will believe what you were telling your family instead of shaming you for it."
*Crystal (who shared the best lyrics ever!): "You've got so much up ahead
You'll make new friends
You should see your kids and husband
And I'd end up saying have no fear
These are nowhere near the best years of your life."

I leave this here to show that everyone has their regrets, and wishes for how their lives should have turned out, but they've all grown and matured and loved and lost. Each of them are beautiful and amazing. Everyone is, they just don't know it yet.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Victim Blaming

  It's been months, and I am terribly sorry for neglecting this for far too long!  I've been planning this very post for months.  I've had a topic in mind, very little time, and even less ambition.  It's not as though I haven't wanted to write, because I have.  It's more that I don't know how to say exactly what's on my mind.  

  The last few months have, so much!  Drew left for deployment and has been gone 82 days.  82 days of parenting 2 toddlers.  82 days of getting my teen ready to enter adulthood, go to prom and get prepared for graduation. 82 days of feeling helpless and crazy, wanting and needing a break.  82 days of sleeping alone.  In 82 days, just 82 days, so much has occurred at work, at Sold No More.  We've began all the projects we had planned, and the success of getting those programs off the ground have been amazing and astounding!  We've reached thousands of children in our school district with a phenomenal program, all about prevention, arming children with information and awareness on trafficking, internet safety and pornography.   

  Being in the schools, talking to the youth of our's been like looking into the faces of the future and the past.  I stand there and I know their potential, the amazing humans they are yet to become.  And I look at them and see them and then I see myself.  I see myself in each of them.  I know what they could be, and how horrifying and terrible it could become for them.  I see vulnerable children who think they're invincible, but also not as confident as they want the world to think they are.  I see innocent, sweet children. 

  I stood in front of these children, and I held up a $20 bill.  I asked them "what is this?" and excitedly, they all shouted out that it was a $20 and that they wanted it!  I then took that bill, and I crumpled it, I threw it to the ground and stomped on it.  First there was a mass sound of shock, and then I said: "Every time I hear the words whore, ho, hooker, slut, ratchet, skank... my breath hitches.  It's as though someone has punched me in the chest." By now, I'm stumbling over my words, and tears are pushing at the back of my eyes.   There is dead silence.  "When I walk through the halls of this school, and I hear all of you awesome young, mature people use these words,  and I hurt.  I hurt not just for myself, but for the girls these words define.  Girls who you've been learning about, girls like me.  Those words, they crumple my value, and the value of the girls I work with.  They crumple our $20 bills."  I then pick up that $20, I uncrumple it, and I ask "Is this still worth $20?" And I get a unanimous "Yes." And then I close with "Do you see how our words can effect others?  But no matter how cruel and hurtful words are,  no matter how much they crumple us, we're worth what we came into this world with.  But after the words are said, we have to walk around with creases in our bills, we're never the same.  No matter that men took my body, and slapped price tags on me, no matter the trauma and horror I experienced, no matter the crumples, I am valuable. And so are you."

    My topic tonight is on "slut-shaming" or "slut-bashing", although, I think I would rather use sexual bullying, or victim blaming.  I have had this topic on my mind for many months now, and it's been the main focus in many conversations I've had.  Tonight I posted in a public forum asking for personal opinions on the subject, and to my silly surprise, I got many answers, one of which took me way off guard, because I naievely believed that people just...understand!  Incidentally it caused a trigger for me.  I was angry and hurt, but in retrospect I realize it was in no way the other woman's fault.  I have obviously had a overload of "life" piled on me recently, and triggers have happened earlier this week as well.  

  To back things up a little, my post asked for opinions on "slut-shaming" and how do people think that it effects society, and specifically, how does it contribute to, or how does it effect our hyper-sexualized society? What I forgot to do was put was a disclaimer on said post, and ask specifically how does all of this effect young girls.  In turn, the answer I got was intended for adult women, and in my emotional state, I responded with my opinions on how this subject effects girls, and why it still effects me, and I responded angrily.  She implied that girls (specifically women) who are "slut-shamed" must mean the women in question probably deserves the shame, or else she wouldn't accept it.  And then I explained my reasons for why this issue bothers me so much, and she responded that "the truth must hurt".  In my desperate attempt to explain, and to understand her lack of compassion, I didn't realize that there was a miscommunication.  And that I may have over-reacted. 

  One other issues still remains from tonight's coversation, and that is that someone else pointed out that this woman would likely feel differently if her children were called these names.  After that issue was presented, she defended herself in saying that she would obviously be upset if her children were called these names, but that her children have been raised with self-worth, so it likely wouldn't hurt them.  And my heart hurts for her with that.  

  While dealing with the after math of my emotions, and thinking many things through, it occurred to me that I work for the girls who don't know self worth, who are like I was.  And sadly, that's the majority of girls.  That's what makes them vulnerable.  That's what made me vulnerable.  And so, just because we might* be capable of raising our daughters to love themselves, despite the social influences that we'll have to fight the whole way through, despite that, are we not also responsible for everyone's daughter??  Are we not responsible for lifting them all up, teaching them all the beauty and potential they possess?? Is it EVER ok to shame another girl, just because she's not "ours"??? No. They'll all ours, and we have to fight the social grooming that's occurring everyday, preparing our babies for the vunerabilities pimps and predators are waiting to use.  

  Call me a PC nazi, tell me I've taken my passion too far, but this is real to me.  This is a major issue that we all have to discuss. My biggest issue with the vocabulary is this: 

- These words are derogitory.  They are meant to oppress girls and women.  To me, they're just as hateful as the use of the "N" word, to describe African American people, or the word "Fag" to describe homosexual people.  These words aren't harmless, they aren't ok.  As a society, we KNOW not to use fag and n***** because they are words that are meant to harm and oppress.  So why are we still using words that are meant to harm and oppress victims.  Whore, hooker, those words describe people who being victimized.  And every time we use them as a society, we make them "harmless" and "funny",  we're taking away the seriousness of the harm that people are suffering.  People don't give a fuck, because these words mean nothing to them.  They're not faced with the reailty of who these words describe, and that's makes it ok to keep using them.  I can take it, I can hear these words, people can use these words to describe me in a hateful way, and I can take it.  But I can't take it knowing that it will remain a non-issue to all those who have never suffered.

  Please consider that before you use them again.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Year, Same Media

  The month of January has been an excruciatingly long one, and while I am more than ready to see the end of it, I’m also terrified.  Drew leaves for deployment in 3 weeks and as the time creeps up on us, I am becoming more and more aware of the idea that I’m about to be separated from my husband for 5-6 months.  The last time we were separated was for Basic and Tech School, and we didn’t have children.  Now I have to figure out how to explain to my children why Daddy won’t be home for so long.  Many wives before me have done this, shit, 2 of my best friends have done this, but I just don’t know what to expect for myself and the kids.  I have a great support system, and I know we’ll get through it, I just need to get my pity party out now.  I’ve spent the last few months shaking my head “yes” and putting the entire idea on the back burner.  Now it’s here and I have to deal with it.  

 In better news, I’m working! Full time!  2 days a week with Sold No More as their Survivor Advocate/Mentor, and 3 days a week at the skilled nursing facility as one of the Activities Assistants.  I’m enjoying every moment of both, and trying like hell to adjust to not seeing my kids more than 3 hours a day and weekends.  I question myself often, “Why am I taking so much time from my kids?” and I have to remind myself of all the reasons, such as wanting to show my children that life is worth living when you dedicate your time to help others.  Or the fact that Drew’s getting out of the military soon and we’ll need an income.  Or that despite what others may tell them in life, we can all truly be what we want to be when we grow up (which is why someday, I’ll be a roller-derby girl!).  


 So what’s the excitement here??  Work, kids, life!  It’s all the norm, except for one teensy weensy little thing…Inside Edition tv.  I’m making it no big deal, and here is why: they suck.  Ok, they don’t actually suck necessarily, but they’re not super awesome either.  

 The day the People Mag article came out for the media only, I was flooded with messages from various media outlets, and Inside Edition was one of them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see the message in my “others” folder on Facebook until just a few weeks ago.  After I finally realized it was there, I immediately messaged back and then started the back and forth of many emails, messages, phone calls, flights, and plans.  

 This past Thursday, the day had finally arrived!  Not only was I about to do my first television piece, I was also going to finally meet my soul sisters and the ladies I’d shared the People article with.  I was excited, nervous, and...suspicious.  Something in my gut kept telling me something wasn’t right about this, and I kept ignoring it.  And too late to turn back regardless, seeing as both of my fellow survivor-sisters were in town here in Tucson.  I couldn’t fly to meet them anywhere, so everything had been arranged here.  

 I got to the hotel by the airport, still pondering the choice to book several hotel suites after Sold No More had offered up our office space, free of charge.  I got to one of the rooms, and we all immediately got to makeup and hair with the amazing artist they’d hired.  We chatted, joked, and got the opportunity to get pretty for such a special day.  Finally, the producer came in, and started chatting.  He asked us questions, gave us a quick rundown of how the interview would go, and generally tried to calm our is his job.  Do you know what else his job is??  Sensational media.  His job is to take a story, and give the audience a piece they won’t be forgetting anytime soon.  Unfortunately, the girls and I hadn’t yet realized this.  

 As I go back to last Thursday in my mind, I can’t help but think about the scene in the original animated Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, with the shady ass walrus and the innocent baby clams, and how he charmed them to leave their beds and follow him to the beach, and ultimately to their untimely deaths.  Ok, dramatic, I know.  The interview went well, fantastically actually.  And if they’d left it at the interview, I wouldn’t be in any way ashamed of my participation in the piece.  Unfortunately they didn’t stop there.  And now every time I think about it, I foresee my professional life coming to a swift end when the rest of the anti-trafficking community witnesses what I duped into doing.  You see, the producer thought it was absolutely necessary to have us all…”reenact” scenes of our past.  Not so literally, but I now understand the reason they turned down my free office space for a swanky hotel suite.  “Liz, are you willing to stand there in the bedroom of the suite and tell us a little about a day in the life in a hotel such as this?” “No.” And he would turn to one of my sister-survivors.  And every time one of us declined, he’d turn to the next.  And one of us would budge.  And so we sat on couches and talked about “days in the life”...and we walked down the street, and we got into a car as it pulled up to us, and we walked down the hallway in the hotel and mimicked putting a key in the door of the suite.  

 And while this all seems mild and harmless to some of you, some of you will understand.  For me, being in a hotel room, even now, 10 years later, I have anxiety because of what hotels meant to me then.  What happened in hotel rooms.  Walking down the street as though I’m looking for a trick?  Putting a key in the door? Explaining to the producer that a hotel such as the one we were in, would have been provided by a high class trick, wanting to wine and dine me before raping me and sending me on my way?  I repeat, sensational.  

 So, after this was all said and done, in my mind, and because one of the girls needed to catch their flight home, I declined the request to take the producer to a nice residential neighborhood for yet another reenactment, and I jumped in my car and booked it the hell out of there.  And as I was getting in the car, I realized how truly close I was to have a break down, so instead of rushing home to pick up my children, I decided to rush to my office instead.  And the moment I walked through the door, I broke into a million pieces.  I had finally witnessed the trigger that could undo me.  A powerful man, in a really nice button shirt, smooth words and persuasive manner had managed to get me to step several rungs down my comfort ladder and potentially throw away from reputation.  

 I want to sit here and cry, think about all the awful consequences that are sure to follow this.  I want to kick myself for leaving my other survivor-sister there with the producer instead of coming up with some bullshit excuse to get her out of there until her flight.  I keep sitting here thinking of all the things I should have done differently and I’m not liking the outcome of all these various thoughts.  The truth is, I can’t change it.  What I CAN do it learn from it.  I know now that from here on out, before I agree to any media opportunities, I need a contract.  And with said contract will be an educational packet, because I am sick and fucking tired of the media I deal with not being educated on the subject of sex-trafficking, or having done any prior research whatsoever!! I have learned that when I KNOW the situation is not ok, to leave BEFORE my comfort levels have been breached, and to make sure I pull my sisters out with me.  I have also learned that there needs to be more proactive media coaching for survivors, ESPECIALLY baby survivors, because the one’s who are fresh and rosey-cheeked are going to be the most likely target for the media, since the rest of us have all been burned and won’t deal with them anymore without contracts and stipulations.  

So...has anything exciting happened lately?  Not really.