Hashtags Don’t Save Children, You Do #saveourchildren #savethechildren

What will save our children?

Not a # with adrenaline boosting stories about kidnapping.

Not a political party or religious belief.

Not over-blown stories about celebrity pedophile rings.

Not emphasis on only rich and privileged people buying children.

Not sensationalized mis-used numbers about missing children.

Not code words about how to order a child at a restaurant or through a furniture shop.

Not a single child will be saved by a hashtag.

When that’s all we focus on, we miss what’s happening in our own family, neighborhood, church, school, and local community. Every day children are sold for sex to many not so rich and famous everyday people and community members. Sometimes it’s a trade for food, shelter, drugs, alcohol, or other need/want. Cash transactions also happen in our rural, frontier, and urban landscapes. If we only look at the wealthy and the famous as perpetrators then we stay in denial about the local children-for-sex economy. It exists everywhere in person. There are many survivors spanning the country that have lived experience with not at all famous people as traffickers and buyers dating back several decades. The sexual exploitation of children is not new. If anything, it’s grown because of the newest tool: the internet. Despite the efforts of technology experts to stay ahead of traffickers, the web is rampant with children and their images for sale.

When too many people are talking at once, listen to the voices of lived experience. A group called SAFE: Survivors Against Familial Exploitation want everyone to understand that almost 40% of trafficked children are trafficked by a family member. (https://www.safe4us.org/)(https://polarisproject.org/blog/2020/08/what-we-know-about-how-child-sex-trafficking-happens/)

Here is what I know would have made a difference for me:

Children need to be seen, heard, validated, and loved. When we do this, we level the playing field for all children to avoid being trafficked. When we do this, we notice the kids that have bruises, injuries, and need us to stand up for them.

Teach children empowering language so they have words to accurately tell us about their bodies without shame.

Don’t make other adults in their lives decipher what “cookies” or “wee-wee” or other ambiguous words we use because of our own embarrassment and shame with penis, vagina, and breasts.

Educate all ages about consent. Then respect their choices.

Children don’t owe anyone a hug or kiss. If we take a lack of attention from a child personally, well, that’s our story to manage. Not theirs.

Be the family that creates a healthy sense of love, belonging, trust, and respect.

Take action on the small injustices because your action tells them they matter. Only then will kids share the big stuff. When they feel minimized or unheard, trust is broken.

Help kids outline a game plan for when they are shown an image or body part that isn’t by consent.

Talk to them about ways to respond when their peers are not treating others with respect and participating in consent.

Why would they know what to do if we haven’t discussed strategies with them? If we practice fire drills and tornado drills at school, surely we can discuss what to do at a party or in a bullying situation. Think about how you would have handled something different if you’d been prepared as a young person.

To do this well we need to re-educate ourselves- it’s time for a cultural revolution that starts paying attention to each child in our midst. Every adult can choose to be the informed and safe adult that kids can trust.

Grandpa, you can help shape your family legacy by interrupting this age old model of “let the boys be the boys”.

Grandma, you can change the future of your family because you chose to raise the young women’s voices in your family today.

Aunts and Uncles can say “we don’t tell jokes like that anymore because we know better” and “disrespecting others isn’t how we thrive, we respect every human.”

Silence is harmful and traumatic all by itself. When we know there is a predator of children in our midst, do the right thing, report the situation to the authorities and allow the professionals into your lives to help sort out criminal actions, healthy boundaries, and recovery. Leaving a child alone in an abusive environment and hoping something changes is like asking a child to fix the family car without any tools. The burden is on the healthy adults and caregivers in a child’s life. Ignoring predators and abuse is criminal.

Physical and sexual abuse of children is epidemic and happens at a much higher rate than children being abducted and sold. Being willing to interrupt abuse in our family systems is hard and necessary and directly impacts the vulnerability of kids in regard to trafficking, substance abuse, and homelessness. When recovery happens in a timely manner, kids can learn early that they are much more than their trauma.

Do trafficking and pedophile rings and networks exist? Yes, absolutely. Can we individually do anything about them? Not much, that work is best left to the professionals, and again speak up for the child in your midst that’s being abused in any way and networks will be exposed that you don’t realize exist.

Spend time and energy on the children we can build safe healthy relationships with, because if everyone did just that criminals would be threatened with a generation of strong, confident, truth telling kids that will know their human rights and know how to get help from smart healthy adults. We just have to treat children better than the criminals.

It’s these hard, awkward, and healthy ways of being with the children in our lives that reduces the vulnerability of being trafficked. Children that are never taught self-respect and consent with their bodies, children that have unresolved trauma and sexual abuse in their history, children that are looking for love, validation, and belonging are among the children and adults that find themselves in hard places with no one to turn to for help. Traffickers and pedophiles find those among us that have unmet physical and/or emotional needs. Rarely are victims kidnapped.

Children and adults that are currently victims, they need a healthy community to recover in – that is how you can help. Be educated, be healthy.

Prevention is helping kids understand their value as humans and teaching them to value all humans. This is worthwhile work. #keepitlocal #lovekids #changeculture #survivorvoices



Can We Afford to Mock and Bully Each Other? 

Yesterday I was in my local fabric shop. I appreciate that this small town has such a great shop that feeds my creativity. The fabric selection is lovely. They do not require masks of their patrons or staff. I choose to shop there rather than online or in another town because I want them to be here, in my town. Fabric is important to my equilibrium.
In the first few minutes of my entering the shop the staff person on duty and I struck up a conversation about boys in our lives that we taught to sew. She then told me that the boy she taught, was teased and it ended his interest in sewing. This made me sad and my reply was, “If we could figure out how to stop bullying, an awful lot of violence would be eliminated in this world. I wish our society could figure out how to not bully each other as kids and as adults.”
Moments later another customer entered the store and upon noticing my masked presence, started talking about “sheeple” and actually making the “ba’ah” sound several times over. Making it clear to me, her opinion of my mask.
I was shocked that this was happening – on the heels of the conversation I’d just had, I was being mocked, bullied, ridiculed by an adult. I resisted the urge to put the fabric down and leave because that seemed like giving her what she wanted – for me to not be in the store. I went to the back of the store to pray and gather my thoughts. I tried to work up the words to approach the other customer directly but I didn’t find them until today.
First of all, I respect that you can choose to not wear a mask. Can you be respectful and civil of my different choice? Does bullying me really help me understand you or you understand me? Did you feel good about treating me that way when you left the shop? Did you tell others about how you shamed the mask wearing fabric lover? Did it make you feel powerful? I just want to understand why you said what you said.
I ask that you consider these possibilities:
Maybe I’ve had COVID and can’t afford to get it a second time.
Maybe I’m immune compromised and getting COVID is dangerous for me or someone I live with.
Maybe I’ve had a loved one die of COVID and it hurt to watch them suffer alone.
Maybe wearing a mask simply brings me a peace of mind that doesn’t come easily during a time when my scheduled life was interrupted.
Maybe a year from now no one will wear a mask because we understand COVID better.
Maybe everyone will be wearing a mask because we understand COVID better.
Maybe I will die in a car accident and you will die of a heart attack and COVID will be irrelevant in our dying.
Maybe neither of us know the right things today.
If your actions had driven me away from the shop, does that help our local economy? Do you want the fabric shop to survive the pandemic? I do. Which means my money spent counts too. The unmasked staff were very respectful and kind, allowing physical distance  during my time in the shop.
Can we afford to push each other away in our local economy? Can our emotional economy survive this division in our small community? What if a day comes when we need each other? What if that day is today? Do we want to be resistant to helping each other because of our differences? Can we afford the battering of each other spiritually? My God says, “To be kind is better than being right.”
Here is what we have in common – a love of fine and beautiful fabric that we use in our homes, a love of sewing and creating things for our families to enjoy. Can we keep that common thread while in the fabric shop instead of making us enemies for our pandemic lifestyle choices? Our political differences? I don’t go to the fabric store to talk politics, I go there to talk about fabric and sewing.
My prayer is that each stitch we collectively sew during this pandemic cultivate more respect, civility, and appreciation for all humans. Where each project trims away our judgements and bullying ways in the interest of having a community that cares for everyone.

#metoo & #covid19 Parallels of Global Pandemics

The first global pandemic in my lifetime was #metoo, it was our first #weareinthistogether moment. While women spoke up loud and clear, every age, gender, color, culture, social class, religious and political side joined the chorus of the #metoo and #timesup movement. Many of us spoke up for the first time in our lives. We declared that a cultural shift was long overdue and pandemonium followed. He said, she said, they said interrupted long time predators and freed thousands of victims from abuse. Many lives have been deeply impacted by the movement. Some people charged with crimes lost jobs, families, and a few are in prison. Victims became survivors and for some of us justice prevailed. It is a revolution we are still navigating.
Sexual crimes have been at pandemic proportions for more than a generation. Silence created severe injury to each survivor and allowed the prolific spread of these crimes. This disease of humanity has taken lives in the form of mental health challenges, addictions, and suicide. It’s been the silent virus infecting our homes, family systems, relationships, ​work environment, systems, ​and ou​r​​ a​bility to thrive as humans. I believe the remedy for #metoo is honesty, courage, and responsibility.
#covid19 pandemic is a new-to-human virus that is ​a ​​​different ​threat ​and strikingly similar in impact. Physical distancing, job loss, financial hardship, and threat from an invisible force have impacted ​our ​sense of well-being around the world. The remedy for #COVID19 is honesty, courage, and responsibility.
#metoo and #covid19 challenge our ability to be:
  • honest about how we each define our truth
  • courageous in speaking our truth
  • responsible for ourselves and how we impact those around us
Our boundaries matter. If we didn’t get the consent culture message that #metoo amplified, #covid19 is here to remind us we need to figure these things out, NOW.
What is my comfort level with physical proximity, touch, mask wearing, shopping, working, living? How do I tell you about my comfort level? ​How do I ask you to respect my choices? How do I learn to respect your decisions? ​When do I tell you, before you arrive, or once you breach my boundaries? How can we empower each other​, ​and especially our children​,​ to speak up for their well-being and boundaries?
With so much fear in our midst, I hope my clear and calm voice will cut through and deliver my truth regarding #metoo and #covid19. I believe we are all interconnected and cannot do this alone or without thinking about those we love, and the neighbors that we don’t love. I believe that wearing a mask deserves respect from those around me, just as I will respect those in my midst that don’t wear a mask​.​ I understand ​that your choice​​ is ​what brings you peace during a time of stress and anxiety. I will ke​ep​ my distance​ if you don’t have a mask, not because I don’t like you, but because physical distance is what brings me peace.
I choose to believe we are all doing our best, I choose to respect every human, and I choose to be incredibly kind to myself and everyone I meet as we continue to shape our new normal with each pandemic. I will not shame you or judge you because I want us to all be empowered with our truth. My choices bring me inner peace, which tells me I am honoring my truth. I’ve been practicing speaking my truth for many years now, and it’s gotten easier to be pro-active and clear about my choices. I have much less anxiety when I know and communicate my boundaries, which brings me back to peace.
What can you more clearly define for yourself so you are prepared to speak your truth?
Be pro-active, communicate clearly, and experience peace.

Dear Movement Allies,

Dear Movement Allies,

Please don’t use the words “rescue” or “save” anymore. This story is not about you. It’s about me finding freedom from violent oppression.

Rescue negates my resilience to survive while pursuing my freedom. Pursue freedom. Yes, I did that all the while I was not free.

Save limits my ability to participate in my freedom. Rescue says I’m not capable of taking a step toward you. I did run to you a million times in my mind before taking that literal first step.

Save removes my choice to respond to your outreach. Rescue says I did not ask for help. I silently screamed for help at the top of my lungs until the day I found my voice, and you were ready to hear me.

Save says I’m helpless. Rescue says I’m a charity. I say I’m resourceful, feisty, strong.

Save implies a happily-ever-after magical ending. Rescue says you are the hero. I’m the hero of my life—I need to be my own hero, to be empowered to persist in the years of recovery ahead.

Rescue says my hands and feet were bound, your eyes can’t see the bondage that held me.

Less than five percent of the time have I been literally bound. Reflect the greater percent of my lived experience, the truth.

Those images of me bruised and beaten may have been true before I was free. The truth many don’t want to see is that during most of my captivity, I looked just like you.

That likeness of me bound with chains? Please don’t use it. Sensationalized large metal chains have never been wrapped around me.

The photos of me behind bars or with ropes around my wrists are metaphors we don’t use anymore. I’ve not been locked in a cage with a key you could hold.

Please don’t show me naked or in the shadows. If we mislead with images and words, my community will never see me living in their midst. Liberate me by showing the world that I look like you.

I need words and images that provoke respect, not pity or sympathy.

Show me how dignity looks on me.

As I re-build my life, celebrate each step of that, please. Show the world my smile. And when my story can help prevent, educate, or inform, please share my story- with my permission.

Not the sordid, degrading details of my horror. This harms everyone.

Give the hero’s journey to me—no matter my age. The triumphant survivor learning to live and love.

The courageous actions that continue to lead to me to new levels of freedom. The flame of hope that I keep feeding. The resilience I exercise to undo the impact of force, fraud, coercion.

Words I agree with: identified, recovered, exit, escape, self-rescue.

Images I agree with will reflect human strength, resiliency, triumph.

As a child, I need help to exit, just like I need someone to teach me how to ride my bike. Empower me to be my own hero by walking beside me. Teach me to make choices of my own. Show me how to develop my sense of self. Please don’t say that you rescued or saved me;  then I owe you, and I’ve paid enough already. Please don’t use my story or photo to raise money, I don’t owe you. Especially if I am a minor, can you see how re-exploitive this is for me?

Ask me about my current life, which reflects post-traumatic growth, love, security. Ask not if I’m happy, but what brings me happiness.

Ask me about my first snorkeling adventure—because I survived so I could experience child-like joy that induced giggles and tears.

Ask me about my river trips in stunning desert canyons—because I’m worthy of whitewater adventure.

In these questions, you’ll discover I’m much more like you than you’ve imagined.

This movement needs you, and me. Let’s remind everyone of my ability to rise beyond freedom.

Angela, a thriving survivor
www.angelaraeclark.com / Feel free to share electronically with your group or organization. I believe this piece applicable for all survivors of violence and oppression. Survivors, feel free to share and add in the points that are important to you that I’ve failed to include. Kindly give credit to me for this piece. Thank you, Angela
For additional articles on how to address trafficking in the media, please visit: http://www.theirinaproject.org/resources.html

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