As of May 1st I’ve been a part of team that is trying to raise money for a wonderful organization called Love146. For this fundraiser, I am walking 146 miles in 46 days!
The first day I started walking I happened to be house sitting in an area that is surrounded by hills, meaning that half of my very first walk was uphill. At least my butt will start getting firm!
My friend told me about this fundraiser and asked if I wanted to join. Quickly, I said “yes” before even knowing what it was for! Selfishly, I thought that this would be a perfect way to encourage me to lose weight while doing something beneficial. However, I didn’t know the true depth and importance of the cause. When my friend explained that the purpose of Love146 is to raise awareness and put a stop to child trafficking, my excitement came to a momentary halt.
Before I explain why this statement stopped me dead in my tracks, I want to express that I truly questioned whether or not I should share this information on the internet. I had even shared it on my Love146 webpage and quickly took it down when I realized how uncomfortable it made me feel. See, I too dealt with something in my childhood that, after reading up on what child trafficking consists of, I realized falls into the category of child trafficking.
I have given my testimony quite a few times, but I have left out a very important reason as to why I was removed from my mother’s care. I kept it to myself because I felt guilt, shame, and a sense of “grossness.” I didn’t want others to start viewing me the same way I viewed myself. I was asked to give my testimony again in church a few years ago, and I was fine with it. I had done it a few times before, it would be no big deal to do it again, I thought. But this time, I heard God tell me that I need to reveal the real story. I wasn’t lying, but I was leaving out the main reason I was placed in foster care. Often, when I’d give my testimony I would crack jokes, but this time I fought with God, telling Him I didn’t want to share that information! I had always claimed to be an open book, but this was a dark secret that I had only shared with a few of my closest friends. I was terrified when I realized I was going to have to tell the entire story. I tried to think of ways to make it funny, like how I always used to. I thought of ways to make this horrible truth lighter, not only so it would be easier on the people who would be hearing it, but so that it would be easier for me to share. But again, I heard God say,
“It’s not funny.”
I stood up there that night at church and began to share how when I lived in motels with my mother, my biggest fear was that I would end up in a shelter. My mom was seeing this guy who had come to her with the information that he knew a few guys who would pay good money for inappropriate pictures of a teenage girl. My mother then came to me with the idea, suggesting I pose for these pictures, to which I quickly protested, “No!” She told me that if I didn’t pose as a model for these photos, we would wind up living in a shelter.
I remember getting into the shower and standing there blankly, feeling so much guilt that because of me, we would have to be officially homeless. When I got out of the shower, I told my mother I would do it. She took the pictures of me and walked each one of them over to this man. I heard him say things like, “Oh, this one is good!” and, “Very nice!” I felt filthy and defiled — but at least we wouldn’t be homeless. My mom and I accompanied these shady men and stayed in the car with them as they tried to sell these sexual photos of a 14 year old girl.
It just so happened that he wasn’t able to sell them. Looking back, I am half happy to realize that I don’t think he even tried. He ended up hiding these pictures in his car, which got impounded. My mom allowed him to take me to San Juan Capistrano to get them back. We took a train, and the whole way there he had his arm around me, saying inappropriate things to me. Finally, we retrieved the pictures, and again he hid them in his motel room.
When this man’s girlfriend got out of jail, she discovered the pictures. My mom somehow ended up getting enough money to take us to Knott’s Berry Farm, and I remember waiting in line for the rapid ride telling her I was worried and felt like there was something wrong. She was annoyed that I was ruining the day with my sense of foreboding, but I couldn’t shake the feeling.
When we got back, one of the pictures was hammered into the wall with a note attatched. My mom gathered her friends and we came up with a story which put the blame entirely on me, saying I wanted to take these photos to help us financially and that my mother took these photos to teach me a lesson and show me “how bad I would feel” if I did such a thing. According to the rest of the fictional tale we constructed, after taking the pictures my mother told me to destroy them, but I, being a rebellious teen, hid them behind the mirror in the bathroom, where someone found and took them. This was our cover up story, in case I got taken away.
A few months later the police came and removed me from my mom’s care. We both told the story we had concocted, and I stuck with it for so long that I actually started to believe it. We found out that the police had been following us for about four months. There were other reasons why I was taken away, like the fact that I had missed most of 7th grade and all of 8th, but this incident with the photos was the main contributor.
I know, this isn’t a very lighthearted story. It’s horrible. I debated publishing it on here for that reason. I know there will be people who will be judgmental, some who will not be able to read it all the way through and some who will see it for what it is. I personally hate hearing stories like this and avoid sad or “bad” things. I often say how I hate feeling emotion, which is the honest truth, so I understand that this isn’t the easiest thing to read. This is why it was hard for me to make a commitment to raising awareness for child trafficking, but I know I’m one of the lucky ones that got out of a troublesome situation unharmed. I believe later on my mother found out that this man had actually been a convicted child molester. If not for the grace of God, things could have been a lot worse.
My participation in Love146 has stirred up the need to share this story again. My story is just one example of how children are used for sex trafficking. The people closest to these kids such as their parents, step-parents or significant others, see their vulnerability and use it to manipulate children for their own benefit. The story I shared is mild compared to the countless horrible stories that are out there.
Love146 is such a wonderful organization that has helped me realize that it is our job to help the oppressed and speak for those who don’t have voices, these children that don’t fully understand what’s happening to them. Some of these kids may just want to feel a love they’ve never felt before, so they allow their body to be used. Some may want to help a family member, so they feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. There are so many reasons child trafficking occurs, and none of them are acceptable in any way.
Although none of what I shared about my mom is pretty, in no way does she feel what she did was okay. It took over 15 years, but she has gotten clean and changed her life, and has apologized over and over again for the things that I was put through in my childhood. She has even given me permission, at the cost of people being hateful toward her, to share stories like this one. My mom was a very lost person, but I am thankful and I praise God every day that she has been able to take responsibility and, most of all, has been able to give my brother a better life. Whenever I’m asked how I can possibly forgive her for such things, I always say that it is because of the fact that she has taken full ownership of her actions, and of course, by the grace of God.
If you would like to help raise awareness of Child Trafficking by either donating to my page, or starting your own team to raise awareness, please visit my website below.