Scanning Obituaries

Every week I scan for his name in the obituaries. Every week I take 5 minutes and scan. I look and see his first name, pausing I notice that the last name matches as well… I click, heart racing and breath suspended… the middle initial is different. Nevermind. I feel awful; I feel like an awful person for my disappointment that he’s not dead. He’s probably got a long way to go before there’s 6 feet of dirt covering his face but somewhere inside me I long for the relief of that day. I know it’s awful. I’m supposed to be a person filled with grace and forgiveness and usually I honestly am with him. I really– truly– don’t want him to suffer. It’s like I told an investigator at one point, “I don’t want him to ruin his life, I just want this all to stop!” The “this” I was referring to is the constant looking over your shoulder, the hush of your senses as a car resembling his drives by slowly. It’s the paranoia and fear of harm that must days subsides to reality but is still ever-present to your subconscious. It’s obnoxious and draining. His very living and “breathing-ness” limits my freedom.

Because he’s alive I feel I have to be constantly aware of my physical surroundings and mostly my online presence.  I write this blog anonymously, I don’t share photos with friends on Facebook, I don’t take credit for work, I wonder about getting married, I worry about children who aren’t even born yet, and I entertain dreams of returning home merely as fairytale. So I do… I scan weekly the obituaries– because he’s still alive, I scan the obituaries.  I don’t want him tortured because that does me no good but I do want 100% assurance that he’s out of my life.  I want to be able to take a deep breath again.  Call me twisted, dark, unforgiving or whatever– I’m really not.  I’m just tired.

I often wonder how that day’s actually going to pan out.  How will I really react on that inevitable moment when his obituary’s ink hits the page and I read it?  Will I cry? Will I feel the instant relief I long for of will it all be grief and guilt?  Maybe I’ll be numb, completely ambivalent.  I hope I don’t rejoice.  I don’t want to be te person who rejoices over anyone’s death — the just feels wrong to me.  Peace is what I want – peace is what I hope my reaction to be… sorrow for what was broken in him and me and peace for my days ahead.

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

“Justice”

What exactly is justice? Justice seems to be the obtaining of or the security of a person’s rights.  But then what exactly is a “right”? What exactly is it that we feel we have rights to? Maybe what comes to mind here is freedom of speech, or the choice of religion or the right to an attorney.  What are my “rights” as an American vs. my rights as a human being and should they be different?  I have opinions, not necessarily answers, to all these questions but really it’s just a bunch of educated guesses.  The UN has made its attempts, but aside from God no one really has the authority to declare something officially right or wrong.  Civilized societies though have tried to get as close as possible to what they feel is universally sound– and I suppose that’s about all anyone can ask.

I’m not a politician or a law-maker.  I’m not a judge who makes life or death rulings on criminal cases.  I’m not a lawyer; I’m not an expert on justice or a person’s legal rights.  What I can attest to are the instances in my life where I truly felt that my rights had been abolished and my justice abandoned.  There’s this list of basic human rights that the United Nations complied back in 1948… reading through it my heart sinks.  Usually I’d think of the UN’s work and I’d think of poor, starving children in the middle of Africa.  Even with my own background I find myself assuming that they’re the only ones needing protection for their basic freedoms.  Wow, how wrong I am.  As I read through this list I realize how many of my basic human rights were taken away through trafficking. 1. no one should be held in slavery 2. no one shall be subject to torture 3. everyone has the right to an effective remedy 4. freedom of movement 5. freedom of expression 6. favorable work conditions 7. the right to take a freakin’ break from those work conditions… on and on and on these “rights” are listed that I, nor my trafficked sisters, had access to during our abuse.  This is absurd.

There’s something about seeing an idea in print that really gets me going. For me, to see a thought in print is to see it with an offical seal of approval and a bullhorn.  If these rights were important enough for multiple countries to agree on over 50 years ago to represent every human on earth from now until eternity, than we should be incensed when they’re not upheld as sacred.  It adds a level of validity to my pain.  Not only was I in an abusive situation by my very right to being human was violated. (Ugggghh!)

Aside from this rant, what I can say is all of this “lost justice” transcends into joy when some of those rights begin to return.  A friend of mine and fellow survivor let me know last week that her trafficker is going to plead guilty to his crimes of kidnapping, pimping, trafficking, abuse, etc.  This is such great news and honestly so, so rare.  Of course, a part of me is terribly jealous because I’m certain I’ll never see a similar plea from my trafficker, but the overwhelming notion is certainly satisfaction.  Even though this isn’t my own case I still count it as a divine victory for a friend and a general, beautiful, victory for humanity.  Moving forward, let’s remember what it takes to be basically human and let’s work to uphold that humanity.

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

Dear Unhappy Happiness

Dear “You”,

I miss you so desperately today.  It’s Thanksgiving so it makes sense because I always miss you more on the holidays.  I left because it wasn’t safe; I had no choice really, but I still was the one who left and as far as I know you’re still there… living next door to hell.  You protected me, you taught me, you were hard on me but you loved me, and I left.  I beg God for your sanity and hope that you’re not hauled up in the corner of a bar alone somewhere tonight.  I watch happy families today… they joke, eat, play games, argue over petty things and I just can’t stop thinking about you.  I’m caught off guard when I find msyself in happy moments today because that happiness quickly makes me unhappy… What about YOU?  Where are you? What are you thinking? Are you thinking of me like I’m thinking of you? Are you dissapointed in me?

We were so close but at the same time never really talked, in a straight forward way, about “real life.”  We just talked around it– but that is our way. (Well, that was our way.) If only I could just reach out and hug your arm again.  But no, situations wont allow that.  People have said to me that in time things may change and I could see you again but I know better.  I won’t get my hopes up for that– the chances are too unlikely.

My heart hurts; down to the movement of every beat, my heart hurts without you.  I remember us swimming in the rain, the long drives with just the two of us, the cheap meals we shared, the expensive gifts you bought me that you couldn’t afford.  In the remembering even the bad times are sweet.  The moments I hated you were few but even those were worth all the rest.  I hide one picture of you away in a white box on the bottom of my bookcase shelf.  I hide another picture of you in the back of a frame hanging on my wall.  I can’t have you face out in the open because it’s too much for me to miss but I can’t help to still want you close.  This sucks.  This isn’t fair.  It’s not fair.  I keep grieving as though you’ve died but you’re still very much up around and living… just far away from me.  I’m just far away from you.  I hate evil because evil corrupted what we had and rejected our bond.

I had no choice.  So on days like today, I’m left missing you dearly.  I hope that you have happy happiness and not the unhappy kind.  I hope the best for you.

Love so much,

Me

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

Alchemy?

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” Really? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to give thanks, no matter what.  Do I have to? No. Should I? Yes. Why? Because it’s just flat-out healthier.  It does me no good to give my trafficker continual power by remaining in the victimized state.  In the life of a victim on this earth, justice is deserved but not guaranteed; grief is guaranteed but not deserved.  If I chose to hang on to the ugly than ugly I become, so I’ve got to move on and be thankful for what I can.

I’m not saying that ever did I thank a man for abusing me. No, no.  I’m far from that kind of incredible.  However, I can say with honesty that I’m thankful for character traits that became a part of me because of my difficult years.  Elements like resourcefulness, strength, wisdom or faith may be in-part natural, but I believe they were only intensified by those keen moments of trial…

A friend of my recently shared with me the word “alchemy.”  Alchemy is the method of turning baser metals into gold.  A more whimsical definition talks about alchemy as any magical power than changes something of little value into a substance of great value.  What a beautiful word.

Greco-Roman Egypt Drawing of the Alchemy Process

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I almost forgot about the holiday this year because I had my calendar packed with other busyness.  I’m not normally the sequence dress-wearing girl, jumping with excitement during the holidays; it’s just not my thing.  BUT how dare I almost forgot a season of thanksgiving.  Yes, there were long years of horrific abuse and I’ll largely carry those scars for the rest of my life.  However, like I said before I have much to be thankful for– we all do. I’ve been spared from innumerable pains.  God’s grace has been louder than imaginable and I am in the process of great healing.  So tomorrow, I’ll wake up for Thanksgiving and celebrate my personal process of alchemy.  I will choose to give thanks in all circumstances, even if I don’t yet understand the gold that will later be formed out of them.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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

Sea of Stuck

I hate the feeling of being stuck.  It’s one of the strongest lies I’ve ever believed and the most damaging to my spirit of hope.  Stuck means to not have the ability to leave.  It means to be unable to move forward; to be burdened with; to be struck by a stronger force.  Have you ever physically been held back? Maybe it was an innocent older sibling holding you down while you were tickled.  Maybe it was as awful as a sexual attack.  What I’m talking about though is less physical, and more situational.  I HATE feeling stuck.

People often ask me, “What is the one piece of advice you’d give to a girl trying to get out of the life?” My answer?

“Never allow yourself to feel stuck.  You’re not stuck.  There is a always hope.  Even if you can’t see it, there is always hope.”

Once you succumb to being stuck, to loosing hope, it’s all over.  The will to live is gone; the will to fight for change dissipates.  It’s lonely, depressing and fatal.

What you have to realize (what I had to realize) is that you still have choices… even in the Sea of Stuck… they just may not be appealing choices.  We’ve heard stories of mountain climbers that got caught in rock fall or avalanch and had a limb pinned down.  They probably try and try to free their arm.  They try brute force, makeshift pry-bars and maybe even help from friends, but eventually they realize what appears to be a Sea of Stuck.  Their arm’s just not moving.  But even with the felling of stuck, there is still choice: give up and die, or cut off the arm and make an attempt to live.

When I got out of my trafficking situation, this is what I felt like.  Either, I could give up and kill myself or be killed by my trafficker (or a crazy john) OR I could cut off my metaphoric arm and make an attempt at living.  I choose to let go of the arm because of this hate I have for the feeling stuck.  I choose to cut off everything I ever knew and jump out into the unknown because of a chance at life.

Stuck isn’t a true state of being, it’s only a true state of emotion.  It’s a valid emotion, but one I had to move past.  I had to start looking for resources, for answers.  It was necessary for survival.  Even to this day though, one of my biggest triggers for disappear is when I have a feeling that drags me down into this great stuck sea.  It freaks me out.

I’m like a claustrophobic person who feels the walls of situation closing in on them.  I remember countless nights as a child digging through my strength of reason and creativity for a way out.  Maybe I could climb out the window, escape to the big city and… do what?? for money…. maybe I could just shoplift a few essential items to get by for a while… no… that would only work for so long… maybe I could just hop on a train like the book I’m reading and “live off the land”… no, not realistic.  Maybe he would just die and it would all be over… maybe someone would come rescue me… maybe, maybe, maybe… what if, what if, what if….

On day though, one of the meanderings of my mind actually held water and I went for it.  I walked out of the Sea of Stuck and walked inland farther than I ever had before.  Today I’m still walking forward and life seems to be fairing just fine– packed with new obstacles and a continual hatred for “stuckness”, but fairing just fine.  Thank God.  Don’t fall for the Sea of Stuck.  It’s nothing but an inhumanely strong lie.

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

Saturday Night Fever

You want to know a dirty little secret?  This is something that I’ve told very little people… something that sounds bizarre, shameful and maybe even confusing.  It’s confusing to me even when it comes out of my mouth.

Sometimes I miss “the life”…

I don’t miss the lies, the pain, the rejection and humiliation but there are parts of me that do miss the adrenaline rush.  I miss the feeling problem solving in a crisis.  I miss reading the actions of dangerous people and the the feeling of accomplishment when I was able to talk my way out of the bad situation.  This is horrible, but I miss feeling like I had a one-up on the world.  There were all those “squares” out there that had no bloody clue as to what real life was like.  They’d stress out about having too much homework or because their boss didn’t give them enough shifts at work.  I knew that I was capable of handling so much more than the normal stress.  I prided myself on being strong.  I dealt with the feeling of being an outsider by saying instead that at least I wasn’t naive.

There is a type of Saturday Night Fever to this life.  I’d choose to embrace the adrenaline instead of dreading the fear. As a way of coping I’d say that this life was my choice, that it was exciting and a rush because that was so much easier than admitting to myself that I was a victim.  We’ve all been on the inside and on the outside of a joke… it always feels better to be “in the know,” even if the secret is horrible.

What’s interesting though is the very things that wound a trafficking victim also work to develop the skills in a survivor.  You see, from having to endure extraordinarily tough situations when I was younger I now have the ability to handle multi-task and manage stress.  I had to read people well back then in order to survive.  Now I read people in order to work as a better part of a team.

If you’re looking for practical ways to help survivors then HIRE them.  Let us turn our survival skills into something productive for more than just living.  Because survivors often have criminal records from their period of abuse it becomes very difficult to find work.  Once healthy, survivors of domestic trafficking do great in sales, customer, social services positions as well as many others.  If your an employer, consider contacting your local rehabilitative programs to see if they have a participant in mind who would fit your open position.

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

Last Week Was Incredible

Last week was incredible.  My last 10 days or so were spent halfway across the world helping girls to come out of the sex industry.  I was working with an amazing American team, but it was the girls we met who were true heros.  Before questions ensue, let me say that the group I work with focuses on supporting local the local culture.  We don’t come into a foreign environment thinking that we know everything but instead rely on the national partners’ advice and direction, paired with our own education and expertise.  The  sex industry in this particular city is ridiculously prevalent and the cycle of sexual abuse and trafficking was actually largely initiative by American visitors.  Teams come in from the outside to help nationals make large amounts of initial contacts with girls working in sex bars and then we facilitate and support that local team with their follow up and rehabilitation of victims after we leave.

I want to share with you a story from one of my friends from where I visited.  I’ve known Sarah (name changed) for about two years now.  We’re only about a year apart in age and so when we met at her bar the friendship connection was natural.  This past week when I went back to see her I was told she had moved jobs.  Another friend walked me down the street to a small hotel where I found Sarah surprised to see me again.  We sat down at the hotel’s bar and began to update each other on our lives.

She switched from working 12 hour shifts at the sex bar to working less hours at the hotel because of her new boyfriend.  This may sound like a good thing, but her “boyfriend” is a very controlling American over twice her age. This man doesn’t want to share Sarah with any other guy so he pays her to work at this different job.  When I asked her if she was happy Sarah repeatedly said, “Well no, not really, but this is best for my boyfriend.”  This boyfriend is heavily pressuring her to have his baby even though he is only in town 18 days out of the year.  If the relationship carries on like most in that area do, this man will get Sarah pregnant and then dump her a short time later after her grows bored of the responsibility (I use this term lightly).  She knows this saying, “I don’t know if he’s a good guy or not” but stays in the situation out of desperation.  Sarah, like other girls in the sex bars there, has her hope wrapped up in a fairy tale wish of being swept away by a handsome foreigner to live a better life.

Sarah comes from a family suffering from extreme poverty.  She was forced to go and work in the sex bars when she was about 16 because the responsibly of providing for her family resided on her small shoulders.  It’s not fair.  It’s so not fair.  This girl has been horribly abused over the years and her culture readily accepts it, or at least ignores it.

People often say that we should only focus on working to improve the situations in our own country and not worry about the rest of the world.  This makes no sense to me.  Obviously I have a heart and passion to end trafficking in America but I believe we should be working around the world as well.  You see, if I was born in the same country as my friend Sarah, I would have never have been able to get out of my trafficking situation.  It was because I was born and trafficked in America that I had access to other opportunities and services that helped get me out.  Sarah does not have access to opportunities like this – she is gripped in a much stronger trap than I ever was and she needs help.  What can you do to help?

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

To Be Continued…

Hello all!

I just wanted to write a quick post to say I’ll probably bit removed from blogging this week.  I’ll hopefully get back to some more regular posts soon but in the meantime I wanted to ask a question…

Has anyone see this documentary: Nefarious I: Merchant of Souls?

 I’ve been wanting to see it myself but have missed every local viewing so far.  Just thought I’d throw it out there if any of you are familiar with it.  Feel free to comment with any other documentary recommendations as well!

Thanks!

Blog posts to be continued… 🙂

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

Going Public

There’s a diacodmy I live with… I don’t ever want anyone to know what’s happened to me and yet I want everyone to know.

I want to keep my trafficking experience to myself because (whether it’s right of not) the situation is incredibly shaming. After they know, people look at you differently.  It’s not their fault, it’s only natural.  For some it’s blatant awkwardness and fear.  They wont make eye contact with you and never speak for fear of saying the wrong thing.  For others, your relationship is now based soley on voyerestic questions that feed their curiosity about this foreign environment.  Then there’s what I like to call the “hugger”… this person is typically a well-meaning, good hearted women who takes great pity on you and just can’t help but invade your person space with a “mamma’s here” hug.  I don’t mind the sentiment, but I hate pity and I’m not particularly (understatement) fond of hugs from strangers.  “You’re in my space; you’re invading my bubble.” is a phrase my friends commonly here from me… though with them, it’s usually just in jest at least.

It’s hard to have people know what’s happened to me.  It may not be true at all, but I feel judged by people who know.  I can feel their unanswered questions about my past and stability tint the tone of every conversation.  My relationships with people who know that I am a trafficking survivor are most certainly colored… for better or for worse.  I’d love to hide and pretend like I’m as normal of a girl as the rest, but it’s simply just not the case.

On the other hand though, I want everyone possible to know my story.  You see, I’m a big believer in advocacy work because as much as my circle of friends get that modern day slavery of American girls on American soil exists, most of the country still has no idea.  People begin to realize that trafficking happens in places like Thailand and Moldavia (I’ve got a huge heart for international work by the way) but many don’t see what happens just next door as well.  To me, if I could shout my story from the rooftops so that people would simply “get it”, I would.  The mere uncomfortableness of exposing my past situation is truly well worth helping another victim become a survivor.

Because my desire to evoke positive change and end trafficking is greater than my fear of ridicule, I do share and I do speak up.  I write this blog anonymously because it’s honestly just safer for me.  This blog adds a layer of protection so that I can write about more intimate parts of my journey that I wouldn’t say in public… or honestly just the parts that I wouldn’t have the guts to say out loud at all.

As part of this desire to educate, I recently spoke at an out of area conference dedicated to anti-trafficking efforts.  I had the honor of sharing an overview of my trafficking situation that was integrated into some practical training.  (Thank you to those who sent supportive messages to me on Twitter by the way!)  I didn’t feel like I did as well as I could have but the feedback was very positive and affirming, so thank you God for that.  Emotionally, I felt pretty detached from what I had talked about for several hours afterward.  It wasn’t until much later that evening that I began to struggle with the emotions of the day.  But writing helps.  Feeling proud of myself even though it was hard, helps.

I’m just looking forward to the day where I don’t have to struggle with who knows what.  I’m looking forward to the day where survivor’s aren’t needed to speak at professional conferences because the situations of trafficking are common knowledge and not accepted.  Mostly though tonight, I look forward to sleep because this entire process has left me absolutely exhausted today.

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

I HATE those Salty Drops of H20

I hate crying. I HATE crying. It makes me feel vulnerable and weak and dumb and I hate it.  As a kid, I think I naturally was a sensitive person, but tears were off limits in my family. I was not allowed to cry– at least not without consequences. Emotions were off limits. No feelings allowed. At a young age, I used to cry at everything… When I was corrected, when my brother made fun of me, when my father yelled at me, when I was frustrated. But sometime in those early years my parents grew sick of it and declares tears off limits.  I don’t know if they had my sexual future of a forced prostitute planned and were just trying to condition me, or if they just didn’t want to deal with it, but I quickly learned that crying was not an acceptable form of expression. The problem with hiding one emotion though is that it’s hard to hide one and not the other.  Hiding my tears meant that I, in effect, ended up hiding most of my true emotions…  Wants, needs, hopes, fears… it all of it became plastered into a strong box, only to be opened more than a decade later.

I hate crying because I was taught to hate it. I was taught that it made you weak, and unattractive and stupid and incapable. I still remember the moment I decided to officially numb my feelings. I had been hurt, yet again, by someone who was suppose to love me- someone who was supposed to be family. I decided then that I would no longer set myself up for this type of pain. I didn’t need people, I didn’t need people’s love. All I needed was me– and God– I knew I could survive on my own. Maybe it wouldn’t  be happy but at least it’d be survival. I refused to cry tears over a loss I should have expected anyway.  You see, in the sex industry, there’s no room for feelings… To feel is to die and to go numb is to survive… It’s the only way. I’m usually a fighter, so I chose the later- I chose the option of numbing out.

Let me let you in on a dirty secret though… I’m crying as I write this, knowing in my heart of hearts that it’s all a bunch of crap. Yes, going numb is a survival mechanism and I wouldn’t have made it through my trafficking situation alive if I allowed myself to feel every touch, every rape, every word. BUT, there is no real life without feeling- there’s only existence. I don’t want to just exist, I want to live.  In order to “live” I must feel, in order to feel I must allow the tears. I still hate it– I still hate crying (and I’ll smack anyone who draws attention to me doing so) but I’ve got to accept that it’s part of the package of living. I no longer will be punished for this kind of emotion, I’m a free me. It’s sill hard though. I still want to crawl in a box and hide. I still want to switch the knob to “off”, I still feel weak when I show what feels like vulnerable emotions, but I’m a work in progress.  My heart is hurting tonight and so I’m going to allow myself to cry… Just don’t tell anyone.

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

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