I Tried to Kill My Sweatshirt

I found myself sitting on a large rock recently, reminiscing of a similar situation over ten years ago.  Both times I was perched there, the sky just past dusk, slight rain filling the air, sensing the sounds and smells of nearby water rustling around mountains.  I held a pen to my journal and surrendered to tears sliding down my face… I’ve never been much of a crier but in moments like this, where your very soul is screaming, the tears almost seem holy.  It’s as if God himself is holding your heart and squeezes until the pain of life runs out in beads, expelled through drops from your eyes.  Yea… those kind of tears.

Perhaps the most lighthearted similarity in these two situations were the sweatshirts.  The first sweatshirt was heather grey, the second was yellow gold.

The grey sweatshirt:  I wore a grey sweatshirt while I attended a camp as a teenager.  This camp was, without exaggeration, a sanctuary to me.  It was the only section of the year where I was allow to just be — no walking with my back to the wall to prevent my father from sneaking up on me; no rushing to meet a guy for another disgusting blow job.  This was the first place since I was 7 that I felt like I could inhale deeply and catch my breath of life back.  One of the biggest differences is that here I was able to be an actual kid and I knew I was cared about by those around me.  There were countless evenings that I sat alone, or with one other person, and sobbed as I remembered every abusive touch and longed for freedom.  I must have wiped an ocean’s worth of tears onto the sleeves of this grey cotton comfort.  I was so incredibly desperate for the feeling of love, for a real family and for a real mom.  Grey… everything was grey then.

The gold sweatshirt: I recently was brought to another camp, this time for a conference.  I found myself in yet another camp sweatshirt, sitting on yet another rock with yet more tears over the same topics.  More than a decade later I’m still mourning those years that I felt no love.  Specifically, I was mourning great pain related to the “mother ” issue.  I’ve been processing through and healing from a lot of different parts of my trafficking story over the years but I’ve consistently tried to put mother topics on the back burner.  She more than aided in my trafficking situation and there’s a lot of ache that derives from her neglect.  Now though, I know that I am in the season of healing… in a season of gold… and I must press on to deal with even the most wounded pieces of what makes me, me.

After I return home from the conference I tried to dispose of my old grey sweatshirt.  Practically speaking, I never wear this piece of clothing and I feel it’s excessive to hold on to things that aren’t used.  It provides no warmth anymore as I’ve worn it literally transparent in certain areas.  The pockets fall out and the ends of each sleeve is slightly hardened from salty tears and who knows what else.  But I just couldn’t do it.  Preparing to dispose of this ratty grey cloak I felt like I was preparing to commit murder.  This silly piece of clothing just simply holds too much life within its threads.  And so, still they both hang… in my closet the grey of my past, and the gold of my new beginnings.

May this blog serve as education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

Once Upon a Time… Broken

My heart’s broken– all over again it’s broken.  It’s a good thing though.  Revisiting my story is simultaneously painful and healing.  I had the opportunity to lift the veil from a few people’s eyes this weekend about the issue of slavery, sex trafficking, forced prostitution… whatever you want to call it, it’s habitual rape.  I’ve realized that this journey I’m on is like a grief filled twister… gathering memories and scattering debris of broken ideals.  I was talking to a new friend about trafficking in Thailand and then made a side comment about it happening in America. Her face went white and my stomach sank.  I had forgotten to realize that she may not have known, that she might be among the majority of Americans who don’t yet realize there are children being forced into prostitution right in their own middle class neighborhoods.  I felt like I had just accidently blurted out a secret about a husband’s affair or a cancer diagnosis to this poor, shocked women.  Pausing for a moment, I began again as she prompted me with anger . “Tell me! Tell me now– this is going on here?!”  she said. Her genuine reaction broke my heart all over again.  I didn’t share with her my specific story then, but I’ll share it with you now…

I grew up in the suburbs of a town just a little smaller than 100,000 people.  I was a straight A student who worshipped the ground her big brother walked on, as he was often my defender from a physically and sexually abusive father and my relief from an emotionally unstable mother.

When I was eight my brother left for college and the dynamic of our household changed dramatically.  My father had lost yet another job and he and my mother turned to me as a steadier source of income.  I will never forget that day.  The way it turned my stomach so sick, the way the men’s semen smelt on my body… so foreign and sour.  It lingered for hours.  This first time I was sold for sex it was to multiple men at once.  I was nine years old.

For the next 11 years of my life I was forced to have sex with hundreds of men.  I was hit, mocked, urinated upon and exploited in the backs of trucks, corner markets, cheap hotels, my own bedroom and on the internet.  Every touch and ugly word only added to the lie that sex was all I had to offer.  It was my “duty” because I was nothing more than a whore.  There was no one I could trust and certainly no one who could help or believe me.  After-all, I deserved this– or so I thought.  In order to cope, I had convinced myself that it was all a choice and ignored the fact that I was enslaved.  I ran away several times but always went back– there was simply no where else for me to go.  My parents had me told me repeatedly that either they would kill me or if I did make it to someone who could help, that those people wouldn’t believe a word I would say.  Nothing in my life so far had shown me that they were lying.

Looking back now, I see that there might have been someone who would have believed me if I had come outright with it all.  Several times I eluded to teachers or other people in positions of authority that some kind of abuse was taking place but I was simply too scared to say anything more.  I would instead just throw out a pathetic phrase here or there and beg the universe to read in between the lines to save my sanity.  Thank You Jesus that today I am free.

May this blog serve as education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

From 9 to 20

From the age of 9 until 20 I was trapped.  Today, I am free.

I recently looked back at something I’d written a short three years ago.  At that time I was sitting in a Starbucks and had begun to journal out the complexities of my longing heart…

Dare I do it? Dare I write?  Not that I think I’d have any chance to publish it or that anyone would read it, but then again, what if?  I’ve set out in my life to take chances, but really, what chance is this? Maybe it’ll be good for me.  Maybe I’ll just start to write again.  It’s been years since I’ve really enjoyed it like I once did.  It’s a get-a-way of sorts, even if I’m directly addressing issues I’d rather ignore.  It would just be me searching for meaning I already need to be searching for.   But what about?  About me?  Who would care?  About my life?  Who would care?  About my experiences? Are they really that interesting or that important?   Who knows?  Maybe I’ll just start writing and see what happens.  Nothing says this has to be read by millions or even anyone at all.  Hmmm, what a thought.  Should I?  Maybe I should.  Maybe I will.  I think I will.  I think I’m supposed to…”

Even now, as I sit and write, I’m unsure.  I’m more interested in taking the leap that begins the journey than knowing where the journey ends.  I fit pieces together as the pieces come.  I’m sure professional authors would cringe at the strategy, but a professional is certainly not something I claim to be.  What I am is a broken individual, healed by the grace of God and passionate about fighting the prevalence of sexual abuse. I am a survivor of despair and doubt. I am a survivor of humiliation and lies, of violence and rape.  I am a survivor of slavery and human trafficking.  Most of all, I think, I’ve survived myself. 

I’m willing to take the risk if you are– to become uncomfortable.  I’m willing to share with you my story of being sexually trafficked right here in America, if you’re willing to listen.  What I do not want however, if for this to be a story of despair– because it’s not.  It’s  a story of hope.  There is a thrasher-filled road of healing ahead of me yes, but I am in the process of freedom.

May this blog serve as education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

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