It is that time of year again. The time of year when #teamMitchellboys stand up for those suffer from the evil of sex trafficking and prostitution. This is my fourth year and the boys’ third. This journey for me and my family has been just that, a family one. We all get excited to stand up for vulnerable women in our community and raise money for Peoria Home. This is who we are as a family. This time of year we put on a public face on what we do as a family year-round. Our family is constantly giving of our time, money and influence to speak up.
As we have for the last three years, we will raise awareness about the local sex trade and funds for Peoria Home. This year I will be focusing the posts on the prevention of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation (more on the distinction on these two words to come). The posts will be intended to show ways that we can help prevent this evil. If you choose to follow these posts, you will see years of research summarized into bite-sized chunks. Prevention of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation is something we can all do if we are bold enough. It can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it, but as Benjamin Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
So often we feel helpless against the darkness of this world. We oftentimes want to close our eyes and not see what is really going on. It is like entering a really messy room and not knowing where to start the cleaning process. This can cause us to not want to enter in. It can overwhelm us to the point of helplessness and so we choose to ignore it. To shut the door on all the mess and just live with less of who we could be. If we live in a world where men and women and boys and girls who are caught in sexual exploitation and prostitution are ignored than we are missing persons who could be a beautiful part of our community.
As someone who has been fighting local sexual exploitation, I understand the desire to not want to see the problem that we have in our community. There are times when the emotions of it all are overwhelming. All the stories I’ve heard hurt to hear. I have heard things that I will never repeat because of the shock that these stories really happened. I have shed many tears after hearing stories. But the joy in this work far outweighs the heartache. My life is far richer having walked with, in my case, women who are strong enough to face their fears head on, face their trauma and not let their past dictate their future. I have seen strength and resilience that I didn’t know were possible. I have seen boldness and gratitude that I wish I could have. My life is richer in large part because of these survivors.
One of the best ways we can fight sexual exploitation is through prevention. Prevention is a proactive way to get ahead of the curve. Stopping the hurt before it happens is better than healing the hurts after they’ve happened. If we can identify and treat the trauma that happen in childhood, we are doing the work of prevention. If those who exploit our community know how to identify vulnerable women and children, it is important for those who could be a safe place for these children to learn to identify them as well. And we can be that safe place.
Prevention is a community affair. We can do this, but not alone. It takes a community that is willing to be bold and stand up for each other, especially the most vulnerable among us. This is going to take some deliberate work. This is going to take the opening of our eyes even when it seems easier to shut them. This is going to mean we open the doors and start cleaning the room. Once we do, we will see that our lives are so much richer because we stood up. We can be a community who loves those who don’t feel love. A community that stands up for each other so that together we can be more complete and healthier.
We get to be a light in this darkness. We can learn what sex trafficking and prostitution look like in our community, and as we learn we can be light into this dark world. We can open our eyes and see hope, not hopelessness, if we are equipped to know how to fight the darkness. We can stand up, not as saviors who rescue, but as fellow citizens who want a healthy community where people are not being sold for sex. We know that once light is brought to a room the darkness has to flee; it does not have the power to remain. The more people that shine their light the faster this darkness will flee and the longer it will stay away.
If you’d like to know how to prevent sex trafficking before it starts and if you’d like to find out how you can be a light, follow me this month as I dive into this important work. I encourage you to be bold enough to open your hearts and eyes to things that we think are too big for us. These posts will be filled with ways that we can love and support one another. If you are willing, they will give you the same hope and prayers that I have: that we can live in a community where no one is bought and sold for sex. Where women and girls can be treated as equals and not property. A place where individual lives have meaning and worth. That we can be a place that treats all people as if they were born worthy of love.
As this month is for prevention, we are also raising money for Peoria Home. Peoria Home is a two-year residential program designed to help women who want to leave the life and regain their life of freedom. It is based in Snohomish County, Washington, in the place I call home. We currently have three friends at Peoria Home. They are amazing women who are working hard. It is a blessing to support this organization.
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Follow #teamMitchellboys this month to learn more about how to prevent sex trafficking. We will keep shining our light so that this darkness will disappear.