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 nerves...as 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.