My heart is very heavy today. This one’s raw and rough, so please excuse grammar and typing errors.
Over the past month, I’ve been collecting and carrying the stories of survivors of some of the most heinous abuses imaginable, and it’s brought me to my knees. It’s one thing to read about them in Facebook headlines or internet articles and click “like” or “share” (if we really mean it). It’s something completely different to sit beside them, hearing their experiences face to face, holding them as they cry or, worse, wondering how badly they’d had to have been hurt to sit there and share without a shred of emotion; sitting there, feeling every fiber of your being on fire knowing that you can’t take their pain away or protect them from the past.
These are sacred moments, truly.
Not everyone has the privilege of this kind of trust, though we forget that when we read enough articles written for shock value. These are true stories from precious, precious people. For example, one of my best friends in the whole world honored me by telling me of his childhood abuse by his own family member and the torment he feels surrounding it as an adult, and I’ve been trying to lovingly walk with him through that nightmare. Tuesday, I served beside women whose daughters were exploited and murdered and those who’d been exploited themselves (sold by boyfriends, escorted, enslaved as an AMERICAN CITIZEN in Japan). I stood behind a young man who was raped at age 7 then regularly used for drugs his mother wanted, beaten with all kinds of objects like 2x4s and aluminum bats (a list he just rattles off like it’s nothing), locked in a small dog kennel, and left in a closet for weeks on end with only bread and chips and water. I also made a new friend this weekend who has only been out of “the life” about a month and a half, and sat with her as she bravely stood with our team and other survivors at the Capitol on Tuesday. Because her dad always had a revolving door of women who he regularly degraded and beat, she grew up having no idea that that is not how she was supposed to be treated, what a healthy relationship looks like.
Can you imagine growing up and not even knowing what love is? To think you know how you’re supposed to be treated, but it’s really abuse and exploitation? Can you even imagine believing that if you love a man, you’re required to sleep with his friends for money? Do you even have a grid for that?
I personally know these people. These aren’t just nameless faces of random sad news stories.
How does one go back to the every day after standing with people as incredible as this?
These people you read about and feel sorry for… they’re real. That rap song about pimps and hoes, those are my friends. That stripper you threw a bill at when just needing a night of relaxation with the guys, she is my friend and she’s up there because a man told her he loved her and that this is how she can prove she loves him back. That porn you watch, 70-80% of those performers (male and female) were sexually abused as children and are in so much pain they don’t know how else to express it. They think performing gives them control and power over those who’d otherwise abuse them like everyone else has, not knowing they’re just being exploited and enslaved anyhow until it’s too late.
I know these women and men and children, and I love them, and I’ve seen what our culture and failed institutions have done to them, and I can’t stand it. I’m one person, I can’t hold them all. A little help here?
Today, I give in and grieve deeply for my precious friends. Tomorrow, I stand back up and figure out what the heck God’s asking me to do about it.