I’m writing this post here on my personal blog rather than at ictsos.org because these are my personal feelings about this issue. They may not be the feelings of others in the group and I don’t want to speak for anyone but myself.
Sunday, March 13th. My life was about to change and I had no idea. A story ran in that day’s paper about human trafficking. I didn’t read the story until a couple of days later after seeing it retweeted on Twitter. The rest of that day I was literally sick to my stomach.
I’m a volunteer. I love helping others and I have found a lot of fun ways to do so. I photograph events for different charities. I photograph military families reuniting after a long deployment. I’ve served on committees for events and even ran a half marathon to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. All great causes. All fun events. I leave those events feeling good about what I helped with and usually have a great time doing so. Win-Win.
Reading that story of a 13 year old girl who had been sold for sex, my heart broke. I knew I wanted to do something but I had no idea what that would be. And I had no idea where it would lead.
The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity. You can catch up on all of that over at www.ictsos.org. I’ve met amazing people and yes, a lot of it has been “fun”.
But I didn’t realize when I opened this door that I was walking into something that would break my heart over and over again each day. I have heard horrible stories of girls being beaten and brutalized. Children who were sold to grown men for sex…by their own mother. Ignorant comments about how a girl who chooses to sell her body is trashy or just a kid gone bad.
But here’s the thing…what girl (or boy) would CHOOSE that? And at 11, 12, 13 years old, is that even a choice they’re equipped to make? Absolutely not. So many of these kids have run away from bad situations at home, or have been abandoned by the people who were supposed to love them unconditionally. There is so much hurt that has happened before they ever reach a point where selling their bodies for sex may be their only option for survival. Their only way to eat that night or have a place to sleep that isn’t the underneath side of a bridge.
I have spent hundreds of hours reading, creating content on our website, Twitter and Facebook, and meeting with organizations and individuals. Every day I feel driven to do something more. And every night when I go to bed I feel like I haven’t done enough.
I think about how blessed my kids are. I can’t imagine a child facing some of the things I have seen and heard. No child should ever have to. Ever.
I know that the more involved I get in this issue, the more pain I will see…and feel. I can’t help it, I’m an emotional sponge. There will be more frustration as the wheels turn slowly for change. There will be setbacks. I will have doors slammed in my face. I will be told (sometimes by my self) that I’m not the right person for this fight. I will lose sleep. I will lose tears.
But there are days when I receive a message from a survivor. Days when I get an email from someone who says, “I had no idea this was happening, how can I help?” Days when I see our community come together and stand in the middle of the Douglas Street bridge to say this has to STOP. Those days I’m encouraged to keep going forward. And at night when I lay down in my warm bed, belly full and surrounded by family, I pray. I pray that somehow it’s making a difference. I pray that I’m doing the right things. I pray that God will work through me and through ICT S.O.S. for His glory. And I pray that He will continue to break my heart for what breaks His.