Friday, August 24, 2012

STRONG IN THE BROKEN PLACES

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms, 1929

Have you ever lost your voice? When I was in 2nd grade a handful of kids lost their voices from a viral infection. The virus must have decided my vocal chords weren't good enough to infect because my voice remained intact. I went home for a few days and screamed into my pillow hoping my voice would disappear. It was futile. Jealousy ran rampant in my veins as my mute classmates were never called on by the teacher to answer arithmetic questions. My voice never left me. 

Until...

My first marriage. My voice was strong, clear, and articulate but I might as well have been voiceless. Ignorant, young, and naive I became the typical battered woman as I learned to be a wife and mother. In my self-imposed captivity I was bound by fear, the welfare of my children, and family traditions. My attempts to leave were thwarted by promises to reform and so I remained. For my children I convinced myself to stay. It's funny the lies you tell yourself when you believe you're acting in the best interest of your loved ones. 

But as the years multiplied and my children grew older, the abuse intensified. Friends, outings, and independence were prohibited in my life. A life which existed solely to revolve around my children and their father. We lived under my parents' roof and they were deaf to my pleas for help. Their fear of the stigma of divorce on our family outweighed their concern for my well-being. As they turned a blind eye to my pain I learned to swallow my voice and hoped my irrational behavior conveyed the desperation I felt to escape. The farcical life I lived was for my family's benefit not mine. I accepted the messages my parents' inaction imparted: I was nothing. Unworthy. Unvalued. Tainted. Used goods. 

It wasn't a courageous act that freed me from the ten years of abuse and oppression I endured but a cowardly one that almost cost me my sister, my children, and my freedom. (That story is for another blog post.)  

The restoration process of my self-worth was long, arduous, and tumultuous. I harbored a burning hatred toward various people in my life that it distorted my ability to make wise choices. Eventually, with the help of my faith I unearthed the bitterness/hatred/resentment/anger putrefying inside me, released them, and learned to forgive. The key to forgiveness was one I resisted with ferocity believing it would further weaken me. On the contrary, my choice to forgive was the key to my mental, emotional, and spiritual freedom. I'm not going to lie, it was far from easy. There are days when I still have to consciously forgive several times a day. If I fail to do this I spiral into a black hole of misery. 
  • I forgave my parents for never defending me, fighting for me, and protecting me. 
  • I forgave the perpetrator who stole my self-worth, my dignity, my confidence, my femininity, my soul, and my spirit. 
  • I forgave MYSELF for allowing people to dictate who I was and placing my well-being in the hands of others. 
  • I forgave God; for his ways are not my ways. 
In the lengthy process of my inner healing I discovered restoration through fighting against human trafficking. It's the global issue that never fails to wreck my heart or cause a shortage of tears. Instead of screaming into a pillow to lose my voice I use it to defend the voiceless, fight for the voiceless, and seek protection for the voiceless. In an indirect way I understand the turmoil of rejection many young girls experience when their parents sell them into sexual slavery. I KNOW the self-recriminations that torment a young girl after an abusive attack. I've also been plagued by doubts of my worthiness in society and family.

People often misunderstand the reasons why I took up the gauntlet to fight against human trafficking. They assume I have a humanitarian heart or desire self-validation for doing something "good." My reasons are personal and lean toward a deeper objective: intolerance of social injustice. I'm certain a majority of volunteers for this cause will attest that recognition and accolades for our work are non-existent. We fight because social injustice moves us to action not to have praise heaped on us.
  
I can't sit and do nothing. In my broken places a supernatural strength resides that compels me to do something. Doing something means I've dedicated my life to volunteer for My Refuge House utilizing my time, talent, and resources to battle against the rising tide of human trafficking. I'm not a commodity and human beings shouldn't reap more profits than the drug trade. 
"An FBI agent told me that sex trafficking is the new drug trade--it's less dangerous and more profitable and gangs are binding together to invest in this market." Julian Sher, Global Trafficking Conference.

Pictures from the 2012 Global Human Trafficking Conference  at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, CA. I volunteered my photography services helping Crystal Sprague and Russ Bermejo from My Refuge House.