I first heard the term human trafficking 12 years ago as I sat in church with 3000 other people on a Sunday morning in 2007. Upon hearing that I live in a world where children are sold for sex, I had a fight with God. How could the good God I believed in my whole life allow something so hideous, I wondered and verbalized in my prayers. As I wrestled with images of children being exploited in this way, I screamed to God “just do something” and I felt Him whisper to my spirit “why don’t you”. During this continued, frustrating dialogue, I wondered what in the world could I do since I am “just a Mom”.
“Build them homes and call them family … these are your daughters.”
Daughters. Hmmmm … What would I do if one of my children were missing – were being exploited in this way – I contemplated. Anything! Everything! Was the obvious answer. I would stop at nothing to see them rescued and set free. I would shamelessly ask for help, for money, for prayers, for resources, for anything to help these vulnerable ones if they were my children.
It has been 12 years since that dialogue with my Heavenly Father. So much has happened during that time as I have sought to “do something” as God whispered. During this time, some things I have witnessed, I would truly call miracles and others, I would call battles straight from the pit of hell. I have met victims – children – who have told me stories of such depravity that I cannot call it anything but evil. I have wrestled with my own faith as I have cried out to God to heal these young ones and set them free. I have searched the country for mental health professionals who have seen this level of trauma in anyone besides the ones they have read about in a text book. I have cried tears with young women who are trapped in the past by their memories who so desperately just want to move forward into their future wondering why they have to relive the pain of the past to be free in the future. I have said “I don’t know” more times than I have had answers to the questions that plague victims “why me – why did this happen to me”. I have shamelessly asked for help and watched a community respond by faith while others refuse to believe it is even happening. I have seen courage in action in ways I never knew were possible. I have seen victims of this crime take responsibility for their lives; determined to be and do all God created them to in spite of their lack of answers, lack of understanding and lack of resources. I have seen lives extracted from hell and I have seen hope where I don’t know if I would have had any.
Yes, we live in a world where children are sold for sex but we also live in a world where lives are being transformed, victims are set free and survivors are leading a movement where they are thriving. Below is one of those stories. It is my honor to have called her one of my daughters for the past 9 years … this is her Freedom Song because someone believed in her.
A few weeks ago, I celebrated being out of trafficking for 9 years. I left without knowing my plan or purpose. I was frightened that transformation could never happen for me. Almost 9 years ago, I moved to California. All I knew was that Jenny had blonde hair, a Southern accent, and what her car looked like.
And, yet, I do not regret the boldness of that transformation.
Leaving the life of trafficking is something I always reflect on during Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Many victims do not have the same community and family I have built in the past 9 years.
I am one of the lucky ones.
When you consider my trafficking history from 6-23 and wonder why I feel lucky, this is why.
I am lucky because I have had people who surround and support me. I am lucky because I had the opportunity to figure out my talents outside of being sold for my body. That has been a huge transformation.
Quite a few years ago, I was at a standstill in my healing and transformation, so my counselor recommended that rather than talking about memories that held me captive that I should paint them out instead. I learned that I love to paint. I learned that I am creative.
I have used that talent to support the recovery for others. As others have supported my recovery and transition, I am able to support others’.
When I first started painting, I painted with a focus on myself and my own memories that I’ve had to learn to live with. However, because of an amazing community, now, I paint and sell those pieces to support other survivors. Not everyone is as supported as I have been.
As I continue to gain momentum as a survivor leader and as an artist in our community, I want you to know this never would have been possible without the love and support of Courage Worldwide.
When I consider Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I consider and know that without Courage Worldwide, I would not have had the opportunity to pursue my own healing.
The other paintings are ones that I have completed and either sold or donated to help others in their recovery process.
I would love to paint one for you.