Saturday, April 6, 2013

Where Do You Come In?

27 Million slaves in the world.
Over 300 girls under the age of 18 being sold for sex in Georgia every month.
The numbers get overwhelming. The stories are horrifying.
You feel powerless, uncomfortable, frustrated.
You know you should do "something" but what? And would it really make a difference?

Here's the deal...I can't promise you can change the world...but I can tell you you can make an impact. You aren't powerless. You can change the world for someone. And if everyone changed the world for someone, the world would be changed.

Let's talk about Casey. Not her real name. In fact, she's not a real person...but her story is very common to those we hear and see. Every story is different. Every girl is an individual. Whatever you do, don't forget that. But hopefully, in Casey's story, you'll understand your place.

When Casey was four, her Dad left. Her Mom started dating. Some of these men touched Casey in places they shouldn't. She tried to tell her Mom but her Mom didn't believe her. When Casey was ten, one of the boyfriends moved in with her and her Mom. Casey's Mom got pregnant and Casey had a little brother. Casey's Mom and the boyfriend got married. Casey thought things were going to be okay but then her Mom got a second shift job. Casey's step-dad started molesting her. Then he started letting his friends do things to her. Then he started selling her to his friends and friends of friends. He tells her if she tells her Mom, her Mom won't believe her. He tells her if she tells, he will hurt her Mom and her brother. Casey is constantly depressed. She doesn't do her school work. She doesn't play with the other kids. She used to love art but not anymore.

When Casey is twelve, she's had enough. She runs away.
Within 72 hours she has fallen into the hands of a trafficker. She was hungry. He fed her. Offered her a place to stay. He told her she was beautiful, that he wanted to be her boyfriend. He told her she had value, that she was valuable to him. That he loved her. And then he took her to a motel room and told her she had to have sex with every man that came into the room. When she refused, he beat her and let men rape her. The next day he told her he was sorry she made him do that...and that if she loves him, she won't make him do it again. So she does what he tells her to because he loves her, because she's valuable to him. She hates herself. She hates what is happening to her.

Months pass...

Casey decides to escape.
Casey is arrested.
Casey is hospitalized.

Casey is free. She is brought to a recovery program where she gets the chance to finish high school. She has group and individual therapy. She isn't crazy about all the life skill classes but she learns from them. She begins the road to recovery.

Where are you?

What if you volunteered a couple of hours one weekend to put posters up all around the city? The poster talks about trafficking and gives the National Trafficking Hotline number (888-373-7888)?

What if Casey's teacher saw the poster and called the number? Thanks to that call and Polaris Project, an investigation was launched, they found out what Casey's step-father had been doing and she was rescued before she ever ran away.

What if you were Casey's art teacher? What if you noticed that the colors she used had went from light to dark, that her painting depicted something dark? What if you talked to the guidance counselor?

What if you were an after-school mentor who spent time with Casey? What if you talked to her about how you valued her? About how special she was? About how she deserved to be treated? What if she felt safe to confide in you? What if she didn't but those words came back to her one night and gave her the courage to escape?

What if you were the guy who had created an accountability group that gave the guy who'd made an appointment to "meet" Casey someone to call and he didn't keep the appointment? As a result, he wasn't the guy that was with her when she was arrested. His marriage is saved and his kids don't have to grow up without their Dad.

What if you were the person who contacted their state Senator or Representative to tell them that you are in favor of HB 200 and so they support the bill that means when Casey is arrested she is treated as a victim instead of a criminal?

What if you were the group that helped remodel the program that is helping Casey? What if you were the women's group that did an in-kind donation drive and supplied the program with school supplies, toilet paper, and other necessities? What if you gave a financial donation that helps pay the counselors, teachers, the light bill, the school curriculum?

What if you are the volunteer who tutors her and helps her earn school credits? What if you teach a life skill class? What if you come on a Saturday and bake with her? What if you build a relationship with her and mentor her after she leaves the program?

What if you are the cashier who smiles at her one day when she buys a coke and you tell her "have a nice day" and she realizes that not everyone looks at her like she is filth?

What if you are the person who sits next to her at church and introduce her to your family, tell her you are glad she's there? What if you teach her to drive? What if you are the business that takes a chance on her to give her a job?

What if you take the time to help change her life? No matter where you come in, no matter what big or small part you play, we all need to do something. If we don't, children will continue to be victimized.

I'm just not okay with that.

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