She Forgives Him

“You did it before.  You’re going to do it again.”  Judge Susan E. McGuirl is clearly not ignorant when it comes to child sex trafficking.  Rhode Island recently had its first sex trafficking trial in her courtroom, where Troy Footman received 85 years.  The judge even called him “a monster”.Adobe Spark(3)

In 2012, Footman came across two runaway teens who were best friends.  He got them jobs in a strip club where he eventually began sex trafficking them in the back rooms.  They earned up to $1,000 each day and Footman kept their money.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up to the man who sold you for sex.  For many child sex trafficking victims the process can be damaging, it can re-traumatize them.  The two girls in this case were both found alive (which in itself is always a celebration) and both took the stand against Footman.  Their courage is commendable.  One of the victims even addressed Footman in the courtroom.Adobe Spark(1)

“You broke me down until I felt like I was nothing.”

“You took my courage…my dignity.  Today I take it back.  I don’t want to be a victim anymore.  I’m no longer a victim.” – Child Sex Trafficking Survivor

This courageous young lady even said she forgives him to bring herself peace.  How amazing is she?  This teen embodies the StreetLightUSA motto of “Trauma to Triumph”.  She has taken hold of her own life, from being a victim to living as a survivor.

Did You Think of Everything?

“You warn them about the Boogeyman and you warn them about the dangers of crossing the street without holding an adult’s hand…  These are the things that you are worried about when your children are growing up…  I don’t think the thought ever crossed my mind that I’d have to warn my daughter about being a child sex slave.” – Mother of a Trafficking Victim

She found out the hard way.  So many mothers find out the hard way that there is a deep, dark, horrific world out there that is scarier than any fairy tale monster or busy 16899802804_2effd4f9d0_ointersection.  This is the world of nightmares, where the boogeymen look like normal people.  Where you don’t realize you’ve entered the house of horrors until it’s too late.  When you turnaround, the exit has disappeared.

 

“She said that she loved her family. There’s nothing we did wrong, but she needed to go find herself,” the mother says. “I’m thinking, ‘What, what do you mean go find yourself? You’re 15, you’ve got your whole lifetime to find yourself.’” – Mother of a Trafficking Victim

It is estimated that a third of all runaways each year are lured into child prostitution or pornography within 48 hours of leaving home.  Of the 11,800 runaways that were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2015, one out of every five was likely a child sex trafficking victim.  In 2014, the estimate was one in six.  This problem is not getting better – it is getting worse every year.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (missingkids.org) is a wonderful resource for families.  They have fact sheets for parents like ‘signs to watch for’ and ‘tips for keeping your children safe’.  The thing they stress: communication!  You must talk to your children about the dangers of running away and child sex trafficking.  Talk frequently and openly, regardless of how uncomfortable the subject makes you feel.  Kids need to know what goes on in the world they will soon be venturing into.  Give your children the best possible chance to succeed.

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“This hasn’t been easy. This wasn’t anything I ever imagined for her,” Nacole says. “I thought I was so in tune with my children and did everything I could to keep them safe. If this can happen to me, it can happen to you. It can happen to anyone.” – Mother of a Trafficking Victim

This mother’s full story, “Child Sex Trafficking – as easy in Seattle as ordering a pizza”, can be found here.

Can She Succeed? Absolutely.

Children bear the consequences of two things: what we do and what we fail to do. – Mike Pistorino

As school supplies start to hit the stores and school mailings start popping into mailboxes, this quote rings quite true I think.  The school year can be a highlighter when it comes to children who are well-equipped vs. children who are not.5472360701_75977e36a4_o

The girls at StreetLightUSA bear many educational consequences where their parents and caregivers failed them.  More often than not, our residents are behind in school, sometimes by a year or more.  The battle of what we can do vs. what their previous guardians failed to do is a fierce one.  Showing a child that she is worthy of a full education is not easy when the world has beaten her down.

A well-equipped campus can go a long way in helping our girls succeed in school.  Many of our residents never had someone buy them school supplies. Simply providing the supplies she needs to succeed in school shows each girl that she deserves an education; she deserves to have a future in which she can be successful in whatever she puts her mind to.

StreetLightUSA has been very fortunate in the upcoming school year.  Thanks to so many generous supporters, our residents will be fully equipped for the upcoming school year!14833990393_e86b133568_o

Children bear the consequences of two things.  Thanks to your help, the girls at StreetLightUSA can bear the consequences of success in school.  You are helping us undo those consequences the girls bear from the people who failed them, and build them up with the consequences of people who will do everything they can to help them succeed.

Today is Amazon Prime Day!  Pick StreetLightUSA as your charity of choice while you shop.  Here’s the link: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/26-4359672

 

Deafening Silence

14672883116_b42827aa5d_oThe 4th of July holiday is fully of bright lights and loud noises.  I liken it to being in a boxing ring with a polar bear – very loud and explosive.  Fireworks, sparklers, barbecues, and kids running around.  The entire country gets very excited to have this holiday to celebrate and we make no effort to keep it quiet.  Let freedom ring and make sure the neighbors know it’s the 4th of July!27952608076_1f922a7055_o.jpg

Silence.  Indifference, even.  No fireworks bringing attention to them.  For child sex trafficking victims, the silence and indifference is torturous.  If I had a nickel for every person who didn’t want to discuss my line of work (writing for a residential care facility for child sex trafficking victims), I could probably buy the freedom of every victim by now.  People ask what I do, I tell them, and 9-1/2 times out of ten they end the conversation right there.  No one wants to talk about it.

 

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel, 1986 Nobel Prize speech

People seem to be under the illusion of “well, as long as I’m not contributing to the industry, I’m not hurting anyone.”  Silence has more power than we realize.  Silence gives the people selling and buying our children all the power they could ever need!  If no one talks about the ugliness of buying a child, then the men buying them have no reason to feel any shame.  They can go home and look their families in the eye, knowing full well that no one will bring it up.

Silence is killing our kids.  Indifference is killing our kids.  How does social media explode and start petitions when a gorilla is shot to save a boy, but men arrested for buying children for sex gets a few hundred shares and angry face emoticons and is then forgotten?  Where is the up-in-arms rage for our children??

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.  The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death” – Elie Wiesel, 1986 interview with U.S. media

Silence is not the answer.  Indifference doesn’t save a single child.  Our children need fireworks.  They need noise.  Their lives and innocence need all the attention you can bring to their plight.  They need you to stand up and scream “NO MORE!!  NOT ON MY WATCH!!  OUR KIDS ARE NOT FOR SALE!!”  Let freedom ring for our children.