Here’s the link to my first interview as a published author. So exciting.
This is a powerful visual presentation of a poem written and performed by a survivor of domestic sex trafficking. Not for the faint of heart.
And I would add: not only are America’s daughters at risk, but our sons as well.
The article linked below appeared in the New York Times this morning and describes the development of a human trafficking network within ISIS and the theological justifications used by their leaders to condone rape of women and girls. In it, escaped Yazidi captives tell their stories. I was shocked, disgusted and disturbed by the treatment of these girls and especially so because their rapes were surrounded by acts of prayer and justifications from the perpetrators that, in essence, blamed the victims–if they had not been infidels, they would not be treated so.
Then I reined in my outrage and asked myself: is this anything new? Once a person/group decides that another race, religion, or gender is less than human, he can justify whatever he does. It happened in this country in our own slave history–owners repeatedly raped their slaves. It still happens in this country–not just in other parts of the world, but here too, lest we be tempted to point fingers at these “barbaric” people as if we’ve evolved above such things. Unchecked, hiding in the shadows, humans are capable of all manner of atrocities in any country, anywhere. One need only scan a few days’ worth of news article to see that.
Yes, ISIS’s deeds are horrible. Yes, Boko Haram commits cowardly inhumane acts. I am not diminishing the horrific nature of their crimes. My emotional response: I would love nothing more than to see their own barbarity turned back on them. But there is a bigger picture here. These groups have developed a “culture” around their behavior that makes it socially and morally–even theologically–acceptable for them to commit these heinous acts. If someone raped one of their little sisters, they would probably behead him. The difference: the captives are not considered human, they’re property. And it is no different for the wealthy Coloradan, whose purchased domestic worker is his to rape at will. We, as a combined human race, must say that NEVER is it right for one human to do this to another, that no religious conviction, no social conviction, no caste system, no economic condition can justify the brutality of rape. This requires a basic understanding that all humans have the right to be treated as humans, not chattel, even if we dislike them or don’t agree vehemently with them.
So, even though my emotions would like to see the barbarity returned onto the perpetrators in kind, my moral and ethical code says they must be treated as human beings, deserving of due process and respect. We need to process these actions as war crimes in the world court.
I found myself saying those words this morning, over and over—in truth, sobbing them. And at the very time I need to be the opposite of those things, or so I tell myself. I wanted to hurry past the feelings, push them away, like I have been doing for weeks. I know better. I spent years in therapy trying to expose the buried emotions that kept me from functioning at my fullest. I also spent years as a counselor encouraging clients to “embrace their brokenness” rather than push it away or bury it. And yet, here I am.
As the release of my first book approaches, the turmoil has increased. Rationally, it is not surprising. As a survivor of severe abuse, one of my strongest defenses has been to be invisible, blend into the woodwork, never draw attention, and now I am asking myself to do the opposite: be visible, expose myself, my thoughts, my very heart. And the broken part of me says that is dangerous, deadly. I can argue with the thoughts, but changing the feelings is near impossible. My counselor self says, don’t change the feelings, embrace them.
So I allow myself to feel what I have been pushing away. It’s ugly, painful, terrifying. This world seems huge, unfriendly, just looking for a way to crush me. I am not wanted here.
Oh, I hit a core belief. I am not wanted. Who I am is a mistake. My thoughts are not wanted, my feelings are not wanted. I should never have been born. Ouch. My heart twists with the pain. It is so deep, so fathomless.
I want to rush to counter the belief. I am loved by many people. I am wanted now. I have gifts, thoughts, skills that are valuable and needed. But to rush to that argument diminishes the value of that broken part of me and confirms her beliefs: nobody wants to hear that negative talk, nobody likes a loser—just ask Donald Trump. The world wants to see confidence, power, strength, not ugly, self-pitying weakness.
I have learned over the years, however, that I make truer, deeper connections with others in and through my brokenness. A huge percentage (don’t ask me for numbers; I have no idea) of this world’s population is more familiar with brokenness than power and “success.” Exposing my broken places, being honest about who I am and what I feel, has built more bridges to others than my façade of confidence ever has or will.
My entire novel series, in fact all I’ve ever written, has come out of my brokenness, not my learned skills or my inner power.
The reason I am a modern day abolitionist, the reason I fight for the rights and dignity of all people comes out of my brokenness. What I’m feeling today—little, broken, invisible, lost—those trapped in slavery, those being trafficked, those being abused, feel every day. I don’t want to shove away my feelings because they keep me connected to 27-30 million slaves around the world and uncalculated numbers of survivors of abuse.
And so, I embrace my brokenness, and I embrace our broken world. If you are one of the broken, I hope you feel my heart reaching toward you. And if you should choose to reach back, my heart is open.
Living with a two-year-old can give one a new perspective on life. This stage of development is so much fun to watch as toddlers discover new skills and determine what is within their power to control—all things, of course!—often leading to battles of will with other toddlers or parental figures. I should mention, this is more fun to watch when you are not the overwrought parent who has to deal with them.
While this is a developmental stage through which all humans must progress, those that grow up in unhealthy or unstable environments sometimes get stuck in this two-year-old mentality. It may manifest as “if I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself” or “I don’t need help; I can do it myself” or as one is emotionally falling apart, “I’m fine. I’m NOT tired.”
What does this have to do with me as a writer? Well, I’ve found myself doing a little self-check recently. In November, I made the decision to independently publish my first novel, which is book one of a five part fantasy series. I came to that conclusion after considering many things, which I won’t bother to list here. But in the back of my mind, questions needled at me: Is my choice being influenced by my trust issues? Am I back to being a two-year-old and stomping my foot saying, “I’ll do it myself”? (I mean no offense to two-year-olds; they have good reason to hold their ground.)
It’s always good to question our motivations and to take a critical look at the reasons for our decisions. It can save us from making emotionally-driven, poor choices. In this case, however, I think the questions came out of self-doubt and lack of trust in my decision-making abilities. Either way, I have answered the questions and am surprised at some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
First of all, independently publishing should never be “I do it myself.” It certainly hasn’t been for me. The number of alpha-readers, beta-readers, critique partners, writers’ groups and writing conferences alone create a tribe of helpers. Then add a mentor, an editor, a graphic artist, and a cover artist, who have all helped to make my vision a reality, and the tribe grows. In addition, there are authors I’ve never met, who have blogged, Facebooked, tweeted, or published how-to books with wisdom from their own journeys that have smoothed my way.
Secondly, I’m learning to trust my decision-making ability. While I have sought the skill and wisdom of many along the way, the decisions are ultimately mine to make, and the consequences mine to bear. On a good day, I’m certain I am making good decisions, but there are always those bad days (artist temperament, right?) when I’m sure they all suck and I’m doomed to fail and fade into oblivion, or worse yet, undergo the knife skills of vicious one-star reviewers. In the end, it has been a good experience for me to face these doubts and move past them.
Thirdly, perspective is essential. While writing and publishing my novels is very important to me, if they are not “successful”—if people don’t love them as I do, or if few copies sell—it will change nothing in the universe. I have friends battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses—that’s important. I know others whose families are falling apart—that’s heartbreaking and truly hard work. Daily, I see the ongoing suffering of those enslaved and trafficked worldwide—real life and death issues. I remind myself of these things, and I find balance. I hope my novels make a difference in some people’s lives, and I hope to raise funds to support survivors of human trafficking. But if that doesn’t happen, life won’t end.
I realize no matter what the future may hold, I’m still better for having taken this journey. I am richer for the people I have come to know along the way. I am wiser for the multitude of things I have learned. I am more confident than when I started. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve conquered some of my two-year-old trust issues.
This weekend I was at the Word Press inaugural blogging conference in Portland. So many bloggers. So many great technical minds. The “happiness lounge” was filled with brilliant, young computer engineers helping bloggers find their blogging nirvana. I was inspired to stop neglecting my poor blog.
So as I was reacquainting myself with the dashboard, I checked the stats on my blog, mostly interested in what countries the visitors were from. It’s amazing to see places listed that I didn’t even know were countries. Then I looked at what search terms people were using to get to my blog and was really disheartened by what I found. Some were searching for “ponography”–yes, spelled that way. My site deals with a lot of anti-trafficking issues, and apparently I tagged one of them as dealing with “ponography”–yes, I made the same spelling error. I’m sure the searchers were not looking for articles on the misuse of children in pornography or the effects of rampant, graphic pornography on the sexual development of adolescents, but that’s what they found. For some reason it makes me feel a little sleazy to know that the Google search engines are directing people my way who are looking for “minor ponography pictures” as if I were promoting one of the very things I stand against.
Writing a blog and being involved in social media is a strange adventure. I’ve never thought of myself as a naive person–I’ve lived waaaay too much life to be that way–but I feel like I’m seeing a whole different world through the internet. Some very wonderful things like being able to connect with people all over the world–over 150 countries in a year. That’s mind-boggling. But there is the dark side too. I’ve been fortunate not to have to deal with negative comments on my site, but I see them on other people’s blogs. People can be so mean-spirited and hateful. Something about anonymity seems to free people from civility. I like honesty, but I believe honesty can, and should, be civil and intelligent. And my hope is–naive as it may seem–that I will be able to keep this blog site a place of shared knowledge and civility.
So those are my musings on this Monday morning. Hope you have a great week.
A report from the U.S. State Department today speaks to the commodification of women and children by ISIL, particularly the captured Yezidi population. The State Department strongly condemned ISIL’s actions and called for international support in bringing the offenders to justice. They estimate the number of victims to be in the thousands–women and children being enslaved, brutalized, and trafficked. I agree with the State Department: These acts are barbaric and call for universal condemnation.