In ‘the life’ – survive vs. suicide

As Human Trafficking Awareness Month comes to a close, I’d say there was a much larger presence of those focused on this issue and those others which can be the beginning steps to trafficking. I’d like to remind everyone that for those who have or are trying to survive the influence human trafficking has left on their sense of personal value and the survival behaviors learned while you are trapped.

Human beings, like other animals, adapt to their surroundings. Our inner most sense is that of survival itself. So let me ask this; ‘When you are so engulfed by constant explosive and almost deadly violence wouldn’t you become quite submissive to survive? How long do you think you could hang on? How bad would it be when you started praying for them to kill you and end your misery? You survive the best you possibly can, but if there is no sign of help or hope, you pray they kill you so you are free!!

This is the life you learn to endure and the behaviors of the human being will naturally adapt to keep you alive. Let me assure you; those who do survive rarely just walk the door of trafficking and live life like what is needed to adapt in ‘normal’ everyday neighborhoods. Without residential recovery services like those provided by Eden’s Glory & Grounds of Grace, among others; going from ‘The Life’ to a self sustaining life is usually filled with a path of addiction, mental illness, extreme emotional distress, lack on interpersonal skills, and a continued submissive behavior (despite how hard we try to cover that up). There is rarely any money available from the trafficker to pay for services needed to help their victims, so this burden lies on the shoulders of those who want to help. These are usually provided by nonprofit services who need funding from you and I; they are struggling for funding to help create more functional and self supporting individuals. The end result of their services will change the lives of these persons and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

When you are trapped in this way of life, you learn to live in a ‘Survive vs Suicide’ mode of thinking. The pain becomes so bad physically and emotionally that you pray they kill you just to put you out of your misery. You hope for a way out and if you run into the arms of another person, you are extremely lucky if that is a kind person who truly wants to keep you safe and learn how to live on your own. More common than not you end of up going straight to the arms of another abuser, usually a domestic relationship that starts off being really kind and your survival habits make you more tolerable of acts of control or degrading remarks. These are dismissed and before you know it, one day they take a swing. The first strike is always the most difficult one, so the second will be much easier and more aggressive. This will take over your relationship and become your existence at least two or three times a week. Your holidays will be taken over by the threat or possibility of violence. You will rarely defend yourself and even less likely to leave because of those few good moments you share. You tell yourself, ‘He does love me. He is good to me most of the time. He just gets angry. If I don’t do this, or I stop doing that, he will stop hitting me. Just so long as he doesn’t leave me alone, doesn’t kick me out, doesn’t cheat on me, doesn’t hurt my kids. This is the way of life for those who have been so violently and violated in the life of trafficking.

How is a person who has grown up in this type of threatening environment and distorted behaviors supposed to choose the right relationships or live a stable everyday life? How are they supposed to learn to associate in common social and professional environments? If we do not ensure funding for shelters and rebuilding services for young and old, victims of family violence, sexual harm, and trafficking, then we cannot just expect them to be self sufficient and become a member of the family, become a parent or a teacher, become a police officer or a social services caseworker without some turmoil and dysfunctional behavior.

Now believe me it is possible for those who have gone through this tragic way of life, especially as children or teens, and then become a parent without any support or family around to help them. We learn to isolate ourselves out of the heavy shame and disgust we carry for our past. We can’t just open our mouths and say; ‘I was forced to have sex with a lot of men from a very young age’. Do you have any idea the level of courage it takes to say these words? If it had happened to you, could you just sit down to dinner and say this to a mother in-law, or an uncle? Could you go see your priest one time and tell him these words? Could you go to a stranger, a doctor, or an employer trying to explain why you’re ill all the time or having so much trouble?

This is why it’s important for survivors of these types of traumatic events seek help. It’s why it’s important to find your voice and help others find their own light. It’s why we need the services of Violence Prevention Center, Hoyleton Youth & Family, DHS, SAVE, Call for Help, PAVE, The Women’s Center, RAINN, ChildHelp, NAASCA, and other leading local and national organizations. All of them continue to put their hearts into the mission of saving lives and rebuilding lives, healing generations every single day. I’m very proud today to say that now we also have Butterfly Dreams Alliance, an incredible team who have joined me in creating a prevention and rebuilding nonprofit service for families & professional education in Southern Illinois.

Today my life has come full circle. I am no longer trapped and praying for death. I am no longer contemplating survive vs suicide. I am 55 years old, I am in the best relationship of my life. I have three beautiful grown amazing children. I have three amazing grandchildren. I have made hundreds of inspiring and supportive friends across the country. We have fought to update and change policies & statutes together. We are creating more known knowledge about the human mind and the human heart in every survivor we encourage along the way.

Today my life is truly free and I am so thankful that I did not miss the dance it has given me. Please help those services in your area and across the country!!!

Advertisements

Childhood Lost…..Early Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse!!

This post may seem triggering to some, but please read it and pass it forward as someone may find the information to lead to an early rescue for a child!!! Thank You!!

As I’ve shared there are happy memories of my childhood that I like to visit now and again. My dad swinging me in the backyard; playing football with my brother and the other neighborhood boys; catching bumblebees in a jar; watching my dad drag race in that awesome red convertible; my favorite, sleeping snuggled in tight with my grandma that last night I visited with the McKnight family.

These are the moments I reach for when I want to think about the happy times as a child. Like many millions of others, unfortunately these are the ONLY happy childhood memories.

It’s tragic to say that after that cold February night in 1963, just after turning five, the happy memories came to a sudden dead halt. After the first time he touched me, made me gag on his tongue as he kissed me; trapped me on the couch as I waited for Richie’s head to explode when he forced him to stand on his head in the corner, all of it was gone. It simply vanished. The laughter and joy I knew as an innocent child was gone. I didn’t play like a child anymore, although I tried.

This was the moment of death for that little girl, she disappeared, hid away in the dark shadows of corners and the brutal deviant behavior of the “New Dad”, as Mom had introduced him.

When the two of them married just two weeks after that first attack, my smile still showed to the outside world, but inside there was nothing; a hallow shell of a little girl with “Dancing Blue Eyes”. I’ve quoted the title of a poem written by Mary E. Graziano, created along with a fabulous recreation of watercolor art from Michal Madison.

I can remember the changes I felt. The cheerful child was forever gone. Sure, I still tried to act as a child, but I couldn’t find her spirit. No matter how hard I searched the playful little girl was gone. My childhood was lost and he had replaced her spirit with constant anticipation of the next attack.

Hi acts caused me to fear sleeping in my own bed. He made me dread the walk home from school with Richie at my side, which I always treasured. He made me hate going in to take a bath; standing on a chair to do dishes; riding in the car; even if I was outside trying to play there was the constant preoccupation of waiting to hear him call me inside.

‘Don’t get too occupied with trying to play, you will hear him soon.”

My heart and soul wanted to run, play, ride my new bike, wade through the creek and play with the cat tails growing wild on the bank. I wanted to walk home from school and think about dodging the cracks in the sidewalk.

“Step on a crack – break your mother’s back.” I used to always dodge those cracks; carefully making sure not to hurt my dear mother!!!

This new child was playing very differently now. My barbies and ‘Ken” took turns rubbing naked bodies together. The girl I used to play with next door was banned from being around me because her mother caught me playing with the dolls while visiting in their house one day.

I brought the little boy down the street inside our house to play one afternoon when Mom was home and Grandma Moody, Mom’s mom, was over for a visit and getting a home perm in her hair. The little boy and I went into my room, closed the door, I laid on the bed and pulled down my britches. Then I began to show him this “new way of playing”.

I believe we might have been in there for about thirty minutes before Mom yelled out for us to come out of my room. I couldn’t get the button on my britches fastened up so I pulled my shirt down over it and tried to hide it. Mom asked as we walked out of the room, “Why are your pants undone?” I don’t remember what I gave as an answer, but she let me go and sent us out the door.

That wasn’t enough for this new little girl, so I took him in the back of our house where an old mattress had been put out for trash. Right out in the open I went back to teaching this little boy how to “play”. We weren’t out in the country. There was a house in back of ours and on the one side, but I’m guessing no one saw us. It wasn’t long before the little boy got up and went running away, leaving me there with my britches unfastened and wondering why he ran off so fast.

Walter’s constant sexual stimulation of the little girl caused me to continually engage in self stimulation and misguided behavior with my barbies. Instead of dancing around like a princess, chasing a football with my brother, or wading through the creek; I was involved with educating other children on how I was getting touched and how it felt. I was involved with sexual stimulation that I should not have known anything about. It wasn’t long before there weren’t any neighborhood children who were permitted to hang out with me.

This is the type of childhood change that happens when we are forced to engage in early sexual behaviors. We don’t realize how wrong it is and why should I have? There wasn’t anyone who ever told me any different. No one said, “Trecia Ann what are you doing? Where did you learn this kind of stuff?” Maybe it would have made a huge difference in the next twelve years of my life, perhaps changed the outcome of it all.

This is an example of the early silent signs of sexual abuse in our young children. The children who are too young to verbalize what is happening to them.

Our world is full of sexualized media through commercials, internet and even some of the “Disney” movies have these little silent sexual behaviors and signals. One I remember my own children brining to my attention; the word “Sex” appearing in “The Lion King”.

Our children see us hug, kiss, and may even unexpectedly walk into Mom and Dad’s bedroom, but for most purposes our young children do not automatically know these types of sexual behaviors. These acts have to be shown to them; taught to them in some form by some person.

Our young children, ages one to ten, should not know any of these acts or what these acts are like. They should not know what masturbation feels like or seek out ways to get sexual stimulation. They should not act this out with dolls, stuffed animals or engage other children in these behaviors.

If you see your child stimulating themselves or engaging in other such behaviors, BE VERY CONCERNED!!! Someone has exposed your child or taught them about these feelings of stimulation. Children at these early years inadvertently share these acts publicly in some fashion. You will see them acting out these behaviors in some form. Children can’t help it. It is a natural reaction to seek out the pleasurable sensations, and when they are this young they are too innocent to try and hide if from anyone.

When they demonstrate these acts they are giving you the SILENT WARNING OF ABUSE!!! DON’T IGNORE IT!!! First consider your child’s age. Consider what they might have seen in their environment and then ask a few innocent questions such as these below;

“Where did you learn how to do that? Did someone teach you how to play like that? Did you see it on a television show or a movie? Who were you watching the movie with? Did someone else touch you there like that or did they ask you to touch them there?”

These are just a few examples of some questions you can ask without alarming your child with concern. Don’t go into panic, keep the conversation on their level and in an innocent manner. Don’t make them feel as if they are in trouble for acting this way or for doing something such as touching themselves. You don’t want to show concern, because your child will clam up and dodge showing any future behaviors such as this in any form where they can be caught. You will place misguided blame on them, even if you do not intend to do so. A child will automatically absorb blame if they feel you are not happy in some way.

You can provide the much-needed early intervention and rescue your child from future sexual abuse if you simply watch and listen to how your young children play. If you are aware of these early silent warning signs of abuse, then you can better protect your child.

It is the “innocent” play time that can give you the best insight to what they cannot yet verbalize. This is something that all persons who have contact with young children should watch for within families, amongst friends, in neighborhoods, or children you babysit. You can make a big difference in their world if we simply pay attention to what they cannot yet tell us.

(c)Patricia A. McKnight

Advocate/Author/Speaker/Examiner/Talk Radio Host/Survivor

Please be sure to visit the NEW WEBSITE

http://www.patriciamcknightsjustice.com