Not One Of Those Days

This is one of those days where the trauma just feels heavy… When I want to curl up in bed all day, as to somehow not be touched again by the cruel fingers of the world.

I usually feel pretty normal.  I don’t live what most would call a typical life, but my day to day is far shriek away from the world of prostitution that used to encompass my every breath.  I don’t wake up every morning in fear of my life.  I no longer walk through 24 hour streams of chronic flashes back to abuse and shame.  I don’t anymore feel as though my scarlet letter is a neon flashing light to the world.

Today is not one of those days.  Today I feel I wear my scarlet letter so strongly that it is actually a neuse, hanging me high for all the world to see.  I don’t know why today, and yesterday, and the day before… I don’t know why these were those sort of days.  Maybe it was because of that anniversary, or the disappointment, or maybe this text message. Who knows?  I just woke up and felt as though the whole world saw my story, heard what I’ve done and snarled at me in response.

I miss the days that make me feel normal.  I miss the days when I forget every slam of my head into a wall, every choked back tear at a disgusting word, every touch of the thousand men.  I like the days when I forget and play like an ostrich with my head shoved deep in the cleansing sand.  Today is not one of those days.  Pity.

Maybe tomorrow will be that day again.  That’s where my brain has to stay- focused– on the bigger picture, and yet taking it one day at a time.  (Now there’s an impossible task when you’re mind is flooding with despair.)  I know it must be done; hope must be chosen.

You know, I suppose it’s a good sign… that these days are bothering me so much.  In the plainest of terms, today I feel like a good-for-nothing-whore.  What’s good is that I’m bothered by this.  I’m bothered because I suppose I don’t believe it’s true.  The first 20 years of my life this is all I was told that I was… useless.  For some 7,300 days I believed I was useless.  But today is not one of those days.

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.

(Post originally written 8/5/12)

SHAME

Photo credit: James Phillips

The scene opens… there are six or so of us sitting around a restaurant table discussing our favorite cocktails.  I found the saw in my drink in front of me and took a long sip.  “I can’t believe you’re drinking.  What about the child you’re carrying? Have you even thought of them?” snipped my friend to the left.  I was floored with betrayal.  I had recently taken a leap of desperate faith and confided  in her about this pregnancy.  I couldn’t believe that she had just outed me, and in such a nasty way.  Shame.

“How could you be pregnant?” said one friend. Shame.

“What were you thinking?” said another. Shame.

“Oh honey…” said a more compassionate voice. Shame.

I looked back at the original accuser with sharp eyes of pain, hate, and disbelief and rose from my chair.  In a fog I walked out of the restaurant, not even bothering to take any belongings with me.  I just had to get out.  I had to run away.  Shame.  Looking left, I stumbled along in the way of a drunk person headed home.  The present circumstances of my life had just come shouting into reality and I was sick.  Continuing to walk, I had no destination, I just wanted to keep moving… as if my crisis was oil that would just roll off my back.  But no.  Shame… still more shame.  I couldn’t decided if I wanted to die or just keep running.  I wasn’t even thinking clearly enough to figure out suicide.  I noticed a car’s open driver side door, climbed in, started the engine and speed away, not even caring what stranger saw me.  I just wanted to run away faster, much, much faster.  Shame.  There was a tree just up ahead.  As if I was deciding what to have for lunch, I plainly thought to myself, “I wonder if that would work,” and accelerated the car with purposeful aim.

//

I awoke this morning feeling immense shame.  This disgusting blanket of emotion was so heavy on my chest I felt as though someone was holding it down.  The above story was all a dream I had last night, with just a little too much truth mixed in there for my comfort.  But it got me thinking… about this idea of SHAME and how powerful it can be.  It’s so choking, so demeaning… such a lie full of truth.  I think much of the power in shame comes because it attacks the core of a person.  It screws with your very identity, not just telling you that you did a bad thing but that you are a bad thing.  With this in mind, I’m finding that the only way to beat it is to make sure that truth is securely married to the essence of the good you know yourself to be.  Hang on tight to that.  That truth is where I find my independence 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.

(Post originally written 6/18/12)

My Relapse Lie

Let’s talk about right now the thing I reeeeally don’t want to talk about.  Relapse.  First of all, what is relaspe in the context of trafficking?  It’s when a girl, previously controlled by a pimp/trafficking finds freedom and yet at some point seemingly gives up her freedom and returns to her abuser.  Yes, this may sound absurd, but from the eyes of the girl, it’s actually complety logical (and a normal part of the healing process).

Secondly, I’d like to express my distain for the word “relapse.”  A relapse implies that someone has retuned to a negative addiction to “something”.  I’d like to argue that it’s usually not that these girls are addicted to sex or money… but more that they just still haven’t found in their new life what they were looking for to begin with… real love.  As I look at my own life, I might even say that it’s the misunderstanding of love, value and identity that trigger my desires to return to The Life.

Lies like, You’re fulling yourself to think that you’re anything more than a whore; Everyone can tell what you’ve done; Life is harder now than it ever was before; You’re going to fail again, just stick to sex, it’s all you’re worth; No one’s ever going to love you here; You were so horrible and disloyal to leave, you broke their hearts and ruined their lives– how dare you?!… lies like those have a certain knack for infiltrating the mind at its weakest moments.  I know that these are lies, my mind KNOWS this… but sometimes it takes my heart a moment to catch up and I find myself entertaining the possibility of going back… going back to what was once home.

There is so much shame wrapped up in all of this.  I feel much shame because I can honestly say that I’ve never missed my parents.  What kind of person can say that? I must be bad for feeling that way, right?  But it’s true.  There’s nothing about the people who put me in front of rape night after night that I miss.  They, and all the other traffickers and pimps out there, are the ones who first instilled those lies in my heart.  The truth is though, I know that I’m worth more than a life of prostitution.  I know real love, love that wants nothing in return is possible.  That’s what I have to cling to.  I can’t go back… I just can’t allow myself to go back.

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.

(Post originally written 3/12/12 and 6/13/12)

Oh, God’s Not a Pimp?

Looking back at my life I’m astonished at how much I was spared from.  Sure, I’m had more than my share of crappy experiences, but with each of those there’s still been immense protection.  Horrible circumstances that were awful to go through, that maybe I wish I was dead from, I survived.  I survived; I’m alive– that’s a million miracles in one.  I’ve used up my nine lives… I’m running on extra innings… however you want to phrase it, I’m here and I statistically shouldn’t be.

To make sense of my survival, all I could come up with was that God wanted to use me to accomplish something.  He wanted me to speak up about and out against trafficking.  He wanted me to help other people.  My thinking has been that He spared me from death so that He could use me for something in life.  I just now have realized how messed up that thinking is.  That thinking has brought me so much pressure.  What if I fail at this great task?  Will God wish that He never saved my life in the first place?

If my previous rationale was the complete truth, than what is the difference between a man who purchases me to serve him in bed and a God who purchases me (by allowing me to live) to serve Him in task?  Now stay with me here… obviously one price paid is much greater than another, but this is not the complete picture.  God’s not some low down pimp.  He didn’t spare my life because He wanted me to become His slave.  (Our God is not in the business of creating slaves; He is in the work of freeing them.)  God spared my life simply because He loved me.  True love is supposed to not keep count, not expect anything in return. (1 Cor. 13)

God did not cause this pain in my life so that I would make a good anti-trafficking advocate one day.  That logic goes against His very definition of love.  Instead, He fought for me and allowed me to live, so that I would get a chance to experience what real love felt like.  It was then that He, knowing my personality intimately, allowed me opportunities to redeem my story.  He knows that I’m a “doer” and that I would need a tangible way to rectify my past.  Because of His grace to my heart He provided avenues for me to take a stand and be a voice.

So this, my friends, is my revelation in a snippet: Because of God’s love, He spared my life.  Because of His grace, He has given me an opportunity to serve Him in this fight against injustice.

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.

(Post originally written 6/11/12)

3rd Generation Slave

Pole Dancing Attire for Babies?!

Three generations.  THREE generations.  My heart was simultaneously filling with joy and tearing in sorrow.  I went to visit a sex bar here overseas where many of my friends work.  I have been coming here for years now to visit and encourage these girls and women in hopes of seeing positive change.  That particular night there were three generations of one family present.  As a surprise to me, the manager was back from maternity leave with her new baby.  Her mom, the bar owner, was also there in order to assist with operations while her daughter was still breast-feeding.  All the other ladies in the bar were just as in love with the new child as I was… she was perfect…. Extra beautiful face, sweet demeanor, precious cry.  Various women would take turns holding the little girl to give Mom a break.  They would laugh with her and make her bop along to the heavy base of the club music playing at the bar.  It killed me when they said, “Oh look – she’s even learning how to dance on the pole already!” They all laughed at the joke.  I nearly cry.

They often joke to me as a friend when a song comes on that I like.  “Oh here – come dance! Come dance!”  They tell me to come dance on the pole and I always say, “No, no, I don’t have to dance on poles any more, remember?”  They smile and say “Yea, yea.”  My heart bleeds a little more.  This is a particularly stubborn bar… not because the women like their jobs or don’t want anything different… it’s because they actually have a strong work community.  They take care of each other and the fear of launching into the unknown of a new community is too great.  Even if they know that community is honestly trying to help them – it’s still an unknown.

Even in my own personal story, the “fear of unknown” was hugely powerful.  So much of the reason why I was in The Life as long as 11 years was because of the unknown.  At least I could somewhat expect the pain of the old life.  If I tried to leave – that was a whole new kind of fear and pain to figure out.  How was I to know if it was going to be better or worse?  Thankfully, as you know, I took that chance one day, but it was a great, GREAT leap.  Maybe one day my friends will understand the worth in this leap of faith as well.  This third generation of girl may be raised up in the sex bar but she doesn’t have to stay there.

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.

(Post originally written 6/10/12)

Art Stop – “Freedom Stones”

Freedom Stones. “Breaking the Chains of Poverty and Injustice.” Beautiful.  I love this jewelry not only because each piece is a beautiful work of art but because there is freedom in the lives of each artisan.  If I might be allowed to steal a little from their website, “Freedom Stones is committed to eliminating and preventing human trafficking through livelihood projects that transform and develop vulnerable communities.”  All in all FS equips communities with more than the skill of jewelry making, they go after totally community care.  For the purposes of this blog though, I would like to feature some of their works of art that appropriately display the beauty in freedom!

 

Click here to learn more about Freedom Stones or to shop their online store. (www.freedomstones.ws)

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.

(Post originally written 6/11/12)

Facing Defeat

Do you ever feel defeated?  Like the problem is just too large?  (Of course you have, everyone has.) It’s like what you’re facing personally is eventually just going to open its wide jaws of despair and swallow you whole, flailing limbs and all.

It’s been a while since I’ve had those feelings for my life own but it’s easy to go there within the mind of ending trafficking.  I’m not naïve, I don’t think I’ll see this crime totally end in my lifetime, but I do expect to see progress.  People in the worst hit areas will tell you over and over again that change is impossible.  “I suppose I just like to work on the impossible then.” I tell them.  If it was so easy, if it was so “possible” than a million people would have already attacked the issue, it would be over, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all.  Our God is a God of impossible tasks, of impossible callings and I have to remind myself that this is OK.  This is nothing new.

Still though, it’s hard.  I talked to a couple of my friends recently who are forced to work in the sex industry.  They’re sister and currently in a fight, though they still love each other deeply.  Neither of them will agree to enter our transitional program because they want the other sister to do so and they know the other won’t show up if they are there first.  Talk about sacrificial love.  I was having this discussion with the older sister when I had to leave.  There was a man insisting that he buy her time so she could dance on the stripper pole with him.  I assumed he also was planning to buy her for sex later that evening.  In order to not get her in trouble with the boss, I hugged her, assuring that I would text later and asked her to be careful.  I could have just bought her myself for the night to spare her an evening with this idiot, but that would have just been a Band-Aid over the issue and I’m more interested in sustainable results.

It’s still so easy to feel defeated in that moment.  To remember the thousands of instances of personal defeat is simple.  But I don’t work with the simple right?  I work with the impossible.

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.

(Post originally written 6/10/12)

Community of Pain

The major difference is that they’re not alone… this city is full, FULL, of sexually hungry men and exploited women.  I press the down button to the elevator last night.  The doors open to a foreign man and local woman starting to have sex.  You even look at the populations in Starbucks.  Sit at this coffee shop in the morning and you witness pair after pair of odd couplings, struggling to communicate through their broken languages the morning after sex.  Come back in the afternoon and you’re left with mostly single, middle aged, foreign men working on their computers or reading the newspaper while swapping stories from last night’s escapades with their bragging neighbor.  The silent men either appear hung over or lost in thought of sexual fantasy.  I watch one man, clearly unable to focus on his work, give up, pick up his phone and call a local girl to propose sex.  My heart breaks because I figure at this time of day she’s probably been sleeping.  Many woman here start work at 4 PM and have 10-12 hours shifts.

That as it be, you’ll start to see these girls emerge from apartments behind the bars by mid-afternoon.  They’ll gather at the bars to finish putting on makeup or to do each other’s hair.  They’ve got to look their best to try and get the man to pay off their debt to the bar.  They’ve got to look their best to provide for their sick mother and father and young child back home.  There is simply no other option for them.  Some women were outright tricked into this business; others simply resigned to the reality that there was no other way.  The non-locals were probably kidnapped.  The chains, however literal or not, are all real.  They are chains of injustice.

I started by saying that the major difference is that they’re not alone.  People ask me how I can stand to work here with my own story of trafficking.  Well, we have a lot in common – these girls and I – but there are certainly some differences as well.  They have an entire community of other woman going through similar experiences – they have others to talk to.  I didn’t have that.  What they don’t have though is the opportunity to get out.  Growing up in America, it was difficult as hell to get out of The Life, next to impossible really, but I still had more chances to get out than these girls could ever dream of.  I had people who said they believed in me.  I could find scholarships for school and churches to accept me.  The sex bars that line the streets here are filled with women that will never know this kind of hope.

That’s why I come.  I come to share with them the hope that someone once shared with me.  There are people who care, there are now people willing to help.  There IS a way out.

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.

(Post originally written 6/10/12)

Art Stop – “Turning Tables”

This song and dance remind me so much of a woman’s struggle to get out of The Life.  Really though, it relates to anyone in a harmful relationship.  I think back to past boyfriends who weren’t the best choice or to even trying to escape my own family.  I think to friend’s who won’t leave the sex bars they work in because of their love for the other girls there or because of the shallow promise from a customer to come back and “rescue” them.  So many of us sit in abusive circumstances too long by holding on to hope for change that doesn’t always exist.  Sometimes we just need to leave.  Sometimes we just need to not let them hurt us any longer.

(http://youtu.be/wBkpp3Jh7e0)

Listen to song here: (http://youtu.be/bsFCO8-oCEQ)

Lyrics to song here: (http://www.metrolyrics.com/turning-tables-lyrics-adele.html)

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.

(Post originally written 6/11/12)

The Illness Of Planning

I’ve been sick in my hotel room for two days… I hate being sick, but who doesn’t?  It’s not the “feeling bad” that gets me the most – it’s the sitting still that I don’t do well with.  My organization has me overseas again to facilitate some details with one of our projects.  Earlier in the trip I found out I’d have an extra week of work to fill and it seemed like I’d made the perfect plans to fill it up… traveling to one of our sites up north.  Then of course, I got sick, so that plan went out the window.

In the hotel room my air-conditioning is running full blast but some areas of this space are sill so warm.  I laugh when my sneezes coincide with the beat of party music from the streets below.  Now there’s a song I recognize… an Asian cover to one of Adele’s top hits.  This is such a funny place, but even sick, I love being here, but right now I have much time to myself.  I start thinking about all the times my plans have failed.

I know I haven’t written in a while.  I guess I’ve just been busy with life… more of my plans not going as planned.  (Feeling a little bit like that’s a “plans failed” moment.)  So here’s a pet peeve of mine… as an American, I’m so often told to make a plan, to have goals.  The classic job interview question of “where do you see yourself in 5 years” comes to mind.  Strange enough though, my life experiences tell me just the opposite, “forget planning, because the future never ends of looking as planned anyway.”  In fact, my counselor tells me at nausea to take things “one day at a time.”

What’s the point of our plans? I plan as a child and life doesn’t work out.  I plan as an adult and trajectories change.  I don’t mean to say that every change is a bad change, just a change.  I suppose I’m just pondering… does how closely or loosing you hold desires for your future directly relate to your level of happiness?  I think if I allowed my heart to get too wrapped up in plans at a young age I would have died long ago.  But then again… does this mean that I have an inability to dream, to wish, to desire?… hmmm that can’t be good.

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.

(Post originally written 6/10/12)

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