Who created you?

Lately, this stream of poetry has been running through my head.

Not “proper” poetry, mind you.

I learned all about the sonnets, and iambic pentameter, and so many different methods of penning prose, it makes my head spin, sometimes. And I’ve written a lot of proper poetry.

But lately… lately, the raw emotion of spoken word has been moving me. It’s been coursing through my dreams, and ambushing me while I’m driving or in the shower.

It won’t leave me alone.

So, today, I recorded it.

It’s my latest “YAWP,” and I hope you’ll find value in my story. Perhaps, it is your story, as well.

Does it move you? Please, give it a “share.”

xoxo

Christina-Marie

 

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Dear Committee Members…

Today, at 3:30pm, the Washington State House Appropriations Committee will review HB 1155 — the bill to remove the statute of limitations on felony sex crimes in Washington state.

As many readers know, last month, I testified in Olympia before the House Public Safety Committee, along with fellow survivors that I’m blessed to call friends. The bill made it out of that committee with flying colors, and was referred to Appropriations, where — frankly — all bills get sent.

SO… this is a big, important step, and farther than we got when we tried to pass this legislation last year. I’m celebrating that, for sure! BUT… we are in the middle of a massive winter storm. Mountain passes are closed without warning, or simply unsafe to travel. I will not be able to make it to Olympia to deliver my testimony in person.

However, my local representative is on the Appropriations Committee, and I talked to his legislative assistant, who assured me that if I sent my testimony by letter — along with the letters of others who would like their testimonies heard — he would ensure the committee members received them.

Humbly, this is what I am sending:

Thank you Chairman, and committee members, for considering my letter today.

Did any of you grow up in a small town? I did, too. My friends and I listened to the same music, shopped at the same stores… And, we were sexually abused by the same man.

I was 10, and in sixth grade. He’d have me work on projects for him at a computer terminal, where he would place his hands on me, rub his genitals across my back, and massage my shoulders and my breasts. When I told him to stop, he told me he was just showing me how much he appreciated me. Often, my two best friends were stationed on either side of me, and he would “appreciate” us, each in turn.

It made us feel dirty and ashamed, and eventually, one of my friends told the principal. I told my mom. My other friend told her mom. We TOLD, but it didn’t stop.

The investigation — years later — was handled through the school district, then through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Even in the end, after OSPI determined he’d sexually abused children over nearly 20 years, he wasn’t charged. Even then, system failed us. We had no legal advocates, and we weren’t offered services or representation.

31 years after abusing me, he still lives in my hometown. He doesn’t have to register as a sex offender, even though OSPI revoked his teaching certificate FOR sexual abuse. He still works with children, taking youth in swimsuits out on his boat during the summer for church youth groups, and passing out candy to kids during community events.

By the time I was strong enough — through counseling and support — to tell my story again, it was too late. In 2013, the statute of limitations (SOL) was lengthened, but it was still too late for me, and my fellow victims.

Today, I blog about my experience. Last year, after testifying before the House Public Safety Committee, I used his name — Bruce Huntoon. I began receiving messages from even more of his victims who said, “It happened to me, too.” A remarkable thing happened, as a result of going public… I found my tribe. That is, we found each other. Several of us were witnesses to each other’s molestation, and as we shared our memories, it validated what we’ve always known — we didn’t remember wrong. We didn’t misunderstand. Also, we learned we weren’t alone, and there were so many more of us.

Not one of us understood the effects of the abuse — literally at the hands of our teacher — until it was too late. I mean, the school investigated, and OSPI investigated, and they surely had our protection as a priority, right? We left it in the hands of the system to protect us, and to provide justice, but it never came. We waited, ashamed, and suffering from wounds we couldn’t even identify — some that would take years to fully manifest — waiting on an arrest that would never come.

We spent years just… Trying to survive. In our twenties and thirties, maybe we gained some footing, but most of us weren’t able to connect the dots until much later. Some of us still haven’t.

I’m 41. I’m married, the mom to eight children — six of them girls. My husband… he’s supportive, but… Our marriage suffers. Our intimacy suffers. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of what my teacher did, and I suffer from autoimmune disorders (common in sexual abuse survivors at an astonishing rate — read some of my fellow survivors’ stories… they have them, too).

Some nights, he hardly sleeps at all, because my nightmares cause me to be so restless. I wake up screaming, or I wake up afraid to move, speak, or be touched.

It may be too late for justice for me. It may be too late for some of my friends, who haven’t yet journeyed far enough to speak out. Some are battling for their lives after years of shame and stress, but several did submit letters for your consideration — one who was terrorized and harassed by this man as recently as two years ago. Add us up… I’m giving you letters from just a few. Many more are named in the Order of Revocation, which I am attaching separately. The average pedophile molests 260 children during his lifetime. How many NEVER told about this ONE man?

It may be too late for the children named, and not named, in the findings from OSPI, but please…. Don’t let it be too late for one more child.

For more about my story, visit my blog at barbaricYAWPgirl.com.

Thank you for your commitment to full consideration of HB 1155. Victims in Washington state need to know that when they are strong enough to tell, there will still be hope… and perpetrators in Washington state need to know they will never be safe from prosecution for their horrific crimes.

There is no SOL for murder in our state, and it’s no coincidence that many sexual abuse victims and advocates draw a parallel to sex crimes, calling it a “murder of the soul.” The damage of sexual abuse stays with us FOREVER. We can’t erase it, fully heal it, or make it go away. It leaves scars on our bodies, on our spirits, and on our souls. It affects our loved ones, our partners, and our children.

How can we — as a society — tolerate the idea that if a person sexually abuses a child, if that criminal can “wait it out,” or if they’ve injured, threatened, or intimidated their victims enough to prevent them from speaking out, they should be safe from prosecution?

We shouldn’t, and we won’t.

My tribe and I will keep fighting for this legislation, even if it doesn’t pass this year. We will keep telling our stories, and we will collect even more along the way. We’ll tell, over and over and over again… until we are SEEN as the survivors we are, HEARD as the survivors we are, and VICTORIOUS in protecting every other survivor that comes after us.

Please, don’t make us return next year. Rather, let us get to the important work of helping others to find their voices and to heal. We are counting on you to get HB 1155 to the House floor for a vote, where its strong bipartisan roots can take hold, and flourish into something necessary for justice, and healing for our wounded.

Very truly yours,

Christina-Marie Wright

I also had the honor, and the privilege, of including letters from several of my sister survivors, and I think they are SO INCREDIBLY FREAKING BRAVE and heroic for writing them! I’m moved to tears by the pride I have to stand alongside them, and many days, I don’t feel worthy of them.

I hate being so far away. I don’t know if my words carry the same weight on paper, as in person. I won’t be able to read the body language of the committee members. I feel like I’m resorting to scattershot advocacy… even though, deep down, I know what we have done will be enough. It will be enough for God’s plan, His justice, His time. This was my part, at this time, this moment, right now.

We’d love your prayers, y’all.

 

Here We Go Again

(Cross-posted from Facebook)

Y’all, I could use some strength right now. 
Tomorrow, I’ll be in Olympia, testifying again for the Washington State House Public Safety Committee. The goal is to end the statute of limitations on sex crimes in Washington state. 
I have lost friends since going public with my story — friends who really meant a lot to me. 
I have had people question the authenticity of my story, and even suggest that the claims by over a dozen people who were sexually abused by the man who abused me (we were all children at the time) are part of some elaborate “witch hunt,” and made up. 
I’ve been having very vivid dreams of people trying to stop me from testifying tomorrow… I woke several times last night from nightmares. 
I KNOW this is my calling. I KNOW my advocacy for women includes this very difficult work. I KNOW our stories need to be told. 
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I need all your positive energies in the coming weeks. Please, rally with me and pray that the testimonies given by me and my fellow survivors will be HEARD, clearly. Pray that the committee will, as they did last year, vote to move forward with this needed legislation. 
Above all, please pray that once it gets out of committee, it receives the support of both the House and Senate, and becomes law in Washington. 
Sexual predators need to know they will NEVER be safe from prosecution in our state.

About that Brock Turner Photo… It Matters, but Not Why You Think

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I get, people. Really, I do.

You’re saying that news agencies and media outlets should stop using that All-American, professionally retouched, squeaky-clean head shot:

and use instead his glassy-eyed mugshot:

This booking photo released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office shows Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer who was sentenced last week to six months in jail and three years' probation for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, January 2015.

I understand.

What you’re saying in your pleas is you want the public and the world to see him as he is now — a criminal. A rapist. An unapologetic one, at that.

And, as much as I understand that sentiment (I feel it, too! I really, really do!), I truly believe we need to see the polished, poised head shot.

Here’s why:

The guy who is going to rape or sexual assault most likely isn’t a creepy stranger. He’s most likely a guy you know, or think you know. He is — colloquially — the “boy next door.”

Three out of four sexual violence attacks are committed by someone known to the victim. It’s going to be a neighbor. A “friend.” A friend of a friend. A teacher. A family member. A classmate. A teammate. A guy you go on a date with. A guy you meet at a club and dance with all night.

See the second picture? The guy with the bloodshot, empty eyes? We know to stay away from that guy, or to at least have our guards up. If he’s a stranger — someone you have never had any contact with — if you are going to be raped, there is only a 25% chance that stranger will be the one to rape you.

25% sounds like pretty lousy odds… I know. But, here’s the thing: If we are to believe findings that  18% of women in the U.S. have been raped (a figure which I personally think to be on the low side… I’d wager it’s closer to 35% or more, but I’m not a researcher), it means that 25% of that 18% — or 4.5% — of women are raped by strangers.

That first picture? He’s the guy to be smart about. He’s the guy who might literally try to charm the pants off you, and take aggressive action when he fails. He is the guy who we need to educate against, most aggressively. He is the guy who is tricky, because gosh darn it… he seems like such a nice guy. No one could ever imagine him hurting anyone!

Here’s what I know, from personal experience:

There is no mugshot of the man who sexually abused me as a child. There are, however, years’ worth of professionally-shot portraits of him in my school’s annuals.

The guy who raped me when I was 14 was a friend of a friend, firmly within my circle of acquaintances, and someone I felt comfortable being around. I didn’t feel like I had to have my guard up that night. If anything, I thought he would be someone who would protect me if anyone else tried to hurt me.

I placed my trust in the wrong guy.

When I was raped in college, it was under almost identical circumstances.

When I was drugged and woke up in a hospital, I’d been reportedly poured into a cab by the two businessmen I’d met earlier at a cafe where I’d had a cup of coffee and a sandwich. We’d spent a good deal of time talking about our work, and making small talk. I don’t remember leaving the cafe. Were we friends? No. Acquaintances? Not really. Does this fall under “stranger assault?” Probably. I don’t know if I was assaulted or raped. The hospital didn’t perform a rape kit or toxicology screen, insisting I’d become unconscious due to self-induced intoxication.

Why do I share, and re-share those experiences? Because I need you to understand a few things:

  1. Most of the abuse/rape/assaults I’ve lived have been at the hands of people I knew and trusted.
  2. Early abuse and rape increases the chances of being re-victimized later in life by a huge margin. HUGE.  Studies suggest that sexual victimization in childhood or adolescence increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood between 2 and 13.7 times. 
  3. The people who violated me looked far more like that first photo of Brock Turner than the second one. Far more. Squeaky-clean, All-American, guy-next-door people.

 

When we get riled and cry out because the world needs to see Brock Turner as the rapist he is, and to do so we must see his mug shot, we are missing the mark. He is just as much a rapist in his suit and tie with a smile as he is in his white hoodie with vacant eyes.

When I chose to sit at the group table in the cafe, alone, I chose the table with the guys in business suits because they seemed more put together and respectable — more trustworthy — than the scroungy guys at some of the other tables with seats available. I thought I was making the safe choice. You know what, though?

Bad guys — scary guys, guys who drug your coffee and take you to hotel rooms — wear suits, too.

Until things change in the world… Until all humans learn, believe, and live the principles that a) consent is mandatory, b) other people’s bodies are not an entitlement to someone else, c) children cannot provide consent, persons with diminished capacity may not be able to provide consent, and persons who are incapacitated are incapable of providing consent, d) rape is an act of violence, and e) perpetrators are 100% responsible and accountable for their acts of violence…

Until then… We need to be on guard.

I’m just as tired of the victim-blaming rape culture as you are. It’s not okay to tell victims they shouldn’t have been drinking, or walking alone, or accepting rides from guys they barely know, or… or… or…

But still, we need to be vigilant.

We need to be smart, and we need to be realistic. It is not succumbing to rape culture to keep our wits about us. It is not succumbing to rape culture to learn to defend ourselves. It is not succumbing to rape culture to listen to the small alarm bells in our minds, rather than dismissing them.

None of that is succumbing to rape culture. All of those things are empowering, and powerful.

When those things fail, and the unthinkable happens, it is kicking rape culture in the balls to speak out, and to refuse to accept any of the victim-blaming rhetoric.

This blog, this re-telling, this journaling, this vulnerability… it’s me, kicking rape culture square in the balls.

 

Read at Your Own Risk

You will read this at your own risk. At the risk of having to question what you think you know about someone in your community. At the risk of having to ask yourself if you are on the side of comfort, or on the side of truth.

You will read this at the risk of having to ask yourself if you are ready to make a stand, and to make hard choices.

You will read it at the risk of having to choose how and when you guard over your children.

You will read it at the risk of having to wonder if someone you know was hurt, and you never noticed, or you didn’t help, or you ignored their claims.

I’m hoping you read it, anyway.

I’m hoping you do the hard thing.

I’m hoping you understand that this is a matter of public record, yet it’s gone unread by many for years.

I’m hoping you understand this document tells the stories of a few… But it speaks for many who couldn’t speak for themselves.

I am one of them.

This document, available to the public, has been treated like a top-security secret.

No more.

Read for yourself, and ask yourself… What action should I take?

If you’re open to suggestions, I suggest you begin with LISTENING to the survivors. We are rallying the troops, and we are speaking out.

We need your prayers, and we need your support.

Next, please ask yourself if you were hurt by the man named in this document, and consider joining us.

Then, please ask yourself if you know someone who was hurt by this man, and support her and give her strength to come forward.

I can be reached by email at:

Mama (at) thegonzomama (dot) com

Read the document, here:

http://www.k12.wa.us/ProfPractices/investigations/ActionTaken/RevocationHuntoon_Redacted1.pdf

Read a news story, here:

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19921210&id=-1xWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=M_ADAAAAIBAJ&pg=4929,8163180&hl=en

His name is not He Who Must Not Be Named.

It is Bruce Huntoon.

The “Morning After” Report

How am I doing after giving my testimony yesterday?

Let me tell you — I hate hearing people say they “can’t” do things. I train my team out of saying it. I train my kids out of saying it.

So, I’ll refrain from saying, “I just _________.”

Instead, I’ll say:

I’m overwhelmed.

I’m tired.

I’m isolated, yet I’m a spectacle.

I’m raw and sensitive, yet I really feel nothing at all.

I feel alone, even though I’m part of a growing tribe.

I feel hopeless, even though others say I give them hope.

I want to scream, “Stop admiring me! Stop thanking me! I’m nothing… Don’t you see that? I’m the same nobody-nothing I’ve always been… Please, look away. Don’t see me. Don’t notice me.”

I’m not holding it together well.

I worry I stirred that pot, when I should have thrown the charred stew out a long, long time ago and forgotten about it.

And… I’m angry.

I’ve had several phone calls from fellow survivors; survivors of my abuser. They are my tribe.

I am ANGRY that we “bond” over the words he used to coerce us, and the ways he touched us.

When I’m not quite sure I’m correctly remembering the excuses and the shame-making statements he used on me, and I’m struggling with the wording of the memory, a tribe member says, “Yes! That’s exactly what he said to me!” and I get ANGRY that he was so “good” at sexually abusing us that he had stock phrases.

I see his social media posts about interacting with the church youth group in my community, and I get ANGRY that I let a pastor make me feel like a BAD CHRISTIAN when I tried to tell him he has a child molester in his church.

I’d love to tell you how the testimony went yesterday, but I ______ (okay… CAN’T) think about it, right now.

I’ll get back to you, soon.

Before I Lose My Nerve

I’m asking all of you to hold me accountable. There’s this thing — this very big thing — on my “bucket list.”

I keep an online bucket list at wakeuplist.com, and it contains all sorts of seemingly mundane, but important-to-me tasks, along with pie-in-the-sky dreams and aspirations.

Of all of them, none is more meaningful than this one:

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Remove the criminal Statute of Limitations on childhood sexual abuse in my state.

Here’s why it matters, for people like me:

The “old” statutes required that a person like me, who has been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, had only until her/his 21st birthday to report the abuse, and have a chance at prosecution of their abuser.

Of course, there were exceptions.

What if the person didn’t remember until after that, because they’d repressed it? Well, they’d have until three years after they remembered, in that case.

What if they remembered, but they didn’t understand how it affected them (in intimacy, child-rearing, mental health or other ways) until much later?

Well, they’d have until three years after they understood to bring their story forward.

None of these exceptions helped me, personally, and they didn’t help the students who were molested alongside me, because many of us fought to survive through our twenties, and spent our thirties trying to gain some footing, and — if we figured out how deeply our abuse affected us — we spent years trying to get our lives together, and by the time we even had time to think, “You know, that man shouldn’t be walking the streets, free to reoffend…” It was too late.

In 2013, the law changed in our state to sort of provide a catch-all, built-in, extra time padding, which allowed charges to be brought until the victim’s 30th birthday.

Progress, for sure, but again… Too late.

So, now… Now, there is a bill, sponsored by Representative Griffey and others in Washington state, which would remove the statute of limitations on (among other crimes) childhood sexual abuse.

On Tuesday morning, it goes before the House Public Safety Committee.

I will be there to testify.

I will be there to speak, for three minutes, about my story, and the stories of others who experienced abuse, literally at the hands of our teacher.

The Capitol is right across the street from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The committee members — if they chose to do so — could walk across the street, ask for the file on my teacher, and read for themselves what he is affirmed to have done.

I will use his name.

I will not offer him anonymity.

I will testify in the most effective way I know how, and I will pray.

I will pray this bill gets out of committee, and I will pray it gets bi-partisan support and becomes law.

I will pray those voting see the TRUE cost of not passing the bill, and not worry that passing it will create an expensive, legal free-for-all judicial overload.

And then… I will celebrate the bill’s passage. I will check this item off my bucket list, and I will thank God for the vision he has provided.

I just thought I should tell you all, before I chicken out.

Please pray for me, and for the brave souls who will join me on Tuesday.

We have a lot of work to do.

My Abuser is Like Lord Voldemort

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

You-Know-Who

The Dark Lord…

I must confess. I’ve never read the Harry Potter books. (I watched the movies, though! Surely, that must count for something?)

With my greatest apologies to J.K. Rowling, I have to admit that I never understood the reluctance of the characters in the Potter movie franchise to say the name of Lord Voldemort.

What’s the big deal? Why won’t anyone say his name?

For the Death Eaters, maybe it’s a form of reverence, like how my Jewish friends won’t say or write “God” in full.

But for everyone else? What gives?

As Professor Minerva McGonagall points out in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, “…his name is Voldemort, so you might as well use it. He’s going to try to kill you, either way.”

It’s unreasonable that a name would have so much power.

Except… It’s not. It’s not really unreasonable that a single name can hold the power of destruction.

My abuser has “code names,” too, and I didn’t really think about it until tonight.

My abuser, for starters.

The man who hurt me.

HIM. (As in, “I had a nightmare about HIM last night.”)

That #*^!?*% ?%^~*#! (Mr. Wright’s name for him.)

Not saying his name doesn’t change what he did.

Keeping silent about who he is (although many have contacted me to say they know exactly who he is, based upon details — some are fellow victims, some are community members who “knew, even back then,” and some are people who associate with him now) doesn’t change my struggles and fears.

Protecting his name, when it seems “everyone” already knows, and there are public documents affirming that he sexually abused children… What purpose does it serve?

We live in a world gone wild for sensationalism. Why not just have it out? Why not plaster his name across social media, and the interwebs?

On Tuesday, I will say it.

I will say it out loud, and I will say it to a group of people who need to hear it. I will say it to people who can — if so inclined, literally walk across the street, pull out a file, and verify the truth.

“His name is _____ _______, so you might as well use it. He’s going to haunt you, either way.”

30 Years Later, I Told… And They LISTENED

Many of you know my story. You know that 30 years ago, I was sexually abused by a man who abused not only me, but dozens of other children. You also know that several years later, during the investigation, I was too fearful to tell my story. I shrugged my experience off, too weary to retell what I had told before; too angry and cynical to bare myself and chance not being believed again.

Tonight, I told.

Tonight, after I became the victim of sexual battery, I told. I told LOUDLY. I announced, in my big girl, outside voice, exactly what that man did to me. I proclaimed it in front of his associates. In front of all the guests at the nice business party. I nearly shouted it.

Then, I left the party. I collapsed in the hallway, and contemplated leaving the hotel. Mr. Wright followed me into the hallway, and demanded I tell him exactly what happened. He insisted I walk back into that party, and show him who the man was.

I described the assailant, but refused to re-enter the party.

Then, something incredible happened. People from inside the party started coming out to the hallway. People who had seen what he did. People who had heard what he did. People who cared what he did, and people who were not going to let him get away with it.

Someone called hotel security, and as the party wrapped up and everyone filed out, several partygoers formed a protective barrier around me, and waited. They waited for him to walk out the door, and they confronted him when he did.

He admitted to touching my hand. He denied, however, placing my hand on his clothed genitals. Then, he changed his statement to, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and he ran.

He ran down the hall. He ran around the corner. He ran for the stairwell, and started running down the stairs. We were on the 31st floor.

Security arrived, and assured me they would have his face on camera somewhere. They took my statement, and I told. Again, I told. The young blonde security woman listened, and she believed me. She told me the police had been called.

As she interviewed me, she listened in her earpiece, and updated me: He was seen running out of the hotel and into the street. What is my address? How about my phone number? Another update: Someone had caught up to him and detained him. The police were in contact with him. They’d like me to meet them outside and give a statement. Did I feel up to that?

She took me downstairs and walked me into the courtyard. There were at least four officers there, and more across the street. And, across the street, there he was, waiting to be positively identified by me, the victim. The police asked me for a statement, and I told. I told them, without tears, what he did. I told them with the confidence I wish I’d had decades ago. I told them in my big girl, outside voice.

Witnesses gave their statements, and that… that’s when I cried.

I cried because I’m not a child. I cried because the party was a group of adults at a business function, and it would have been so much easier and more comfortable for them not to tell. I cried because they cared enough to say, “That’s not okay, and we won’t stand for it.” I cried because my God, we need more people like them in the world.

I cried because these people YAWPed for me. For me!

I cried because… I’ve spent 30 years watching and learning that most people don’t do the hard thing when it comes to sexual abuse and assault. These people did.

In fact, it was one of those people who chased my assailant down and made sure police could grab him. It was another of those people who took the initiative to call security, and said he would make sure the police were called. Yet another saw it happen, and she gave a statement to the police.

Any one of these people could have turned the other way, and carried on with their night, but they didn’t.

I had to get into the back of a police cruiser. They drove me down the block, circled back, and lit up the “suspect” with a spotlight, assuring me he couldn’t see into the cruiser. They asked me to make a positive identification. Was it him? Was I sure? Was I positive?

Yes… Yes, I was, and I told.

Sexual battery is what he is being charged with, they said, which is a misdemeanor in the state of California (where I am at the moment). Normally, taking him into custody wouldn’t be required, but tonight… Tonight they took him into custody due to “proximity of the victim.”

They took him into custody to keep me safe. And they called me a “victim,” which didn’t make me feel weak. To the contrary, it made me feel strong and validated, because it meant they were listening, and they believed me.

They asked me if I will be willing to testify, should I need to? Yes. Yes, I will, and I will do so as many times as needed.

I’ve read a lot about bystander apathy, which occurs when a group of people fail to intervene, help or otherwise aid a victim. A number of things contribute to this phenomenon, including ambiguity (not clearly knowing if the victim really needs help) and diffusion of responsibility (assuming someone else will provide assistance).

What happened tonight defied the societal research. Tonight, people determined I needed help — even though my inclination was to leave the scene, and pretend like it didn’t happen after I told and got myself to physical safety — and took it upon themselves to ensure help arrived.

Don’t give up, readers… Some things in the world are just as they should be, and good people are out there, ready to listen and advocate.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one with a YAWP for the world, and I am grateful.

What We Can’t Unsee

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Back in November, Mr. Wright and I traveled to New Orleans for a conference related to his business. Although we were there in a professional capacity, we still made time for a little bit of fun and sightseeing, along with meeting up with a fabulous friend from my college.

Let me tell you about Bourbon Street…

If you love live music, you’ll enjoy taking in the local bands at various venues. If you love loud crowds and people watching, and are amused by the antics of the intoxicated, Bourbon Street was made for you. If you enjoy the freedom of carrying an adult beverage down the street while you stroll, you can’t go wrong on Bourbon Street.

However, Bourbon Street offers more.

It offers no shortage of “gentlemen’s” clubs, boasting everything from “live love acts” to dancers who are “barely legal.”

I defy you to walk the full length of the strip without either being solicited for “company” or witnessing someone being solicited for the same.

As a side note, the first time I visited New Orleans with Mr. Wright, we accidentally got off the main road — something we’d been advised by locals not to do, for safety reasons — and got a little bit turned around. Teetering on my not-sensible stilettos about five paces behind my husband on some weird alley-like side street, I listened with intrigue as a curvy woman in a Spandex dress murmured, “There’s comfort inside, Darlin'” to Mr. Wright from her doorway, illuminated by a red light. (Yes, really, a red light.)

“No thanks,” he said, and kept walking. I slowed as I passed the doorway, and my husband had to turn around and drag me away by the arm.

“She said COMFORT,” I insisted. “Maybe she meant a foot massage? These shoes are killing me!”

All joking aside, there is no denying the sex trade is alive and well in New Orleans. I watched, saddened, as business colleagues of my husband wandered into strip clubs or walked down the street with confident arms around the waists of women who clearly were not their wives.

It’s the same “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mentality that rolls off the tongues of those behaving badly while traveling. And, by “badly,” I mean in ways that don’t edify their relationships, their hearts, or their spirits.

What happens in Vegas, or New Orleans, or anywhere else, does not stay there. It remains in the hearts and minds of the convicted, and it does not stay hidden from God.

Anyway, back to my point (and I do have one)…

Once we have recognized our own wounds, and given ourselves permission to process our history, and denounced the power of our abuse by breaking our silences, we see things differently.

We see others who are suffering, and we see them in a much different way than the general population sees them.

We see a special type of pain and coping that the “untrained” heart does not see.

We truly see the victims of bondage and abuse, and we cannot unsee them.

What’s more, many of them know we see them, and those victims will react in one of two ways. They may retreat, due to hopeless resignation, bitterness, or a misguided belief in “deserving” the abuse. They will look away, walk away, or otherwise remove themselves from our empathy. Others will silently acknowledge what they know we know with a pleading look that says, “Help me.”

As we passed the club advertising “love acts,” two women in skimpy lingerie lingering in the doorway caught my eye. One was animatedly engaged with a small group of men crowded around the entrance, while the other stood nearby, completely silent. I made eye contact with her briefly, and saw her suffering. I locked gazes with her for a moment longer than was necessary or comfortable, and offered her a smile.

She responded by looking down in shame and silence.

How I wish I’d taken the time to turn around, go back, and pray with her. I still regret not doing so.

It was getting later, and clubs were starting to wind down for the evening. A woman in a tank top and athletic pants, who we’d seen approach several different men during the course of the evening, talked to yet another, asking in thinly-veiled desperation, “Are you feeling lonely tonight, Sugar? Could you use some company?” When he declined, she said, “Alright… you have a good night, Honey,” and attempted a smile.

That’s when I saw the bruising her makeup didn’t full hide.

It was the end of the night, and she was probably going to have to tell a pimp that she hadn’t met her “quota” for the day.

We can’t unsee them, as heart-wrenching as it is.

Sometimes, I think, “Lord, haven’t I seen enough? I can’t save them all, so WHY? Why unveil my eyes in THIS way, to THIS issue, to THIS pain?”

I can look away, but I can’t unsee.

I stumbled across this verse, and it didn’t seem profoundly relevant to me, at first:

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:3, New International Version)

But something in it made me want to dig deeper, looking at different versions of the same verse…

New Living Translation:

Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

New English Translation (a.k.a. the NET Bible):

Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them, and those ill-treated as though you too felt their torment.

King James:

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Aha! These different versions, together, formed a cohesive picture for me. I can’t unsee the bondage, lest I forget it. I can’t unsee the suffering, lest I become indifferent to it.

Maybe I can’t SAVE them all, but I can be a VOICE for them all. God has given me the gift of true sight when it comes to these special daughters and sons of His… and He has given me a YAWP to speak for them.