An open letter to Mr. Ashton Kutcher

Dear Mr. Ashton Kutcher,
I want to address you as a white male in our patriarchal society, speaking out about child sex trafficking in the United States. While a part of me is grateful that your influential voice has taken a stand, I am deeply offended by your recent statements to the senate. I want to thank you first, for bringing such a powerful voice to the movement. Your voice has so much power to do good, and you have stepped up to do so. Your organization, Thorn, is bringing a new approach to fighting trafficking using technology. Thank you for taking a stand. Thank you for trying. Thank you for addressing a group of people [the senate] that majority of our survivors won’t get to do.
Along with my appreciation for your speaking out, I would like to address a few things. The fact that you never mention having explicit permission to use the stories of the 3 child survivors you speak of; comparing one to your daughter due their similar ages, another you give the name Amy, and the third referencing a 7 year old child you saw on video footage is upsetting. Never once, did you mention getting permission. If you were unable to get permission, why are you using the story? And if you did obtain permission, why didn’t you state permission was obtained? This is exploitive and should not be seen as anything less. We have to hold the privacy and security of survivors tight, we have to build trust with them, they have to be able to trust us.
Secondly, I would like to address your comments about how what you saw made you feel and affected the way you sleep. Like a typical white male in America, it is once again about you.  You state, according to multiple sources, that you have been exposed to things “no person should ever see.” Do you understand, that the things you have seen do not compare to what a survivor goes through in a day, a single day?
I am a child sex trafficking survivor, and I am deeply offended at the right you think you have to tell our stories, without our explicit permission. I am overwhelmingly disappointed at the fact that you think it is acceptable to claim that you know what goes on because you have seen certain aspects. You, sir, have no idea. Have you witnessed murder? I have. Have you witnessed someone being beaten literally to death? I have. Have you had drugs forced upon you? I have. Have you been raped multiple times in a day for days on end? I have. Have you been deprived of basic human needs such as going to the bathroom, eating, sleeping etc.? I have. The fact that you have sleep to disturb, gives you privilege.
These comments go far beyond you and your address of the senate. This comments only graze the skin of what needs to be done to create a safe place for our survivors, myself included.

I Am Not Ashamed

From victim to survivor.
Sure I’ll speak your language.
Since you refuse to learn mine.
I was sold by my mother.
Wait that’s not what you want to hear.
My pimp was the woman whose body grew mine.
Whose body God knit together my soul in.
I was sold for sex as a child.
Wait…
I was a victim of sex trafficking.
Because then you can have that layer of denial
Of cognitive dissonance
You don’t have to hear the words come out of my mouth
The words that would strobe graphic pictures in your head are too much
You don’t want to know what really happens
You can’t believe it would happen in your city
It happens in your city
No matter how big or how small
Do you have a gas station?
It happens in your city
Do you have a hotel?
It happens in your city
Do you have internet?
It happens in your city
I was a victim of sex trafficking. Trafficked in my home town. By my parents. By a national gang. I saw too much death way too young. I was born on drugs, literally, my mother had meth in her system when she gave birth. And Throughout my life she would shoot me up. Regularly. I live in pain every day, because of a pattern of things in my life that were there when I got here. I wish I could tell you it happened for only a year or two and then I was rescued. But that is not my story. My story is not a story of rescue. This is where sugar coating or speaking your language doesn’t really cut it. People bought me for years. As a child. This was all I knew. This was my normal. I knew it wasn’t normal, but it’s what I was conditioned to do. When I ran away. I was lucky in some ways. And not in others. I’ve been followed. I’ve been raped. I’ve been kidnapped. I’ve been beaten and shot up. I’ve been stocked. I’ve been ran over. And I’ve run away. I’ve sold myself. And for a long time felt a lot of shame about this. But you know what. I’m done with that. I was a sex worker. I was forcibly sold. And then I sold myself. I refuse to continue to wear the shame our society puts on the consensual selling and buying of sex. I refuse to allow the anti-trafficking movement to make me less of a trafficking survivor, because I later made the choice to sell my own body as others had done to/for me, for my entire life. One does not negate the other. I am a trafficking survivor. I was sold forcefully. I am a former sex worker. I sold myself, consensually. I am more than either of those things though. Life, my life, is worth more than any of those words. Those things are part of who I am. I am also a wife. I am a friend. I am a parent. I am a sister. I am a coworker. I am a neighbor. I am a writer. I am a student. I could go on, but you get the point. Being a trafficking survivor doesn’t define me. It is a big part of my life though, as an advocate (such a problematic word), for trafficking survivors, sex workers, DV survivors and many more. As Walt Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well; I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”

It was rape…

It was rape, even though he was was my dad.
It was rape, even though he claims it was cause he didn’t know better.

It was rape, even though my mother was paid for it.
It was rape, even though some were women.
It was rape, because I could not consent.

It was rape, even though he was my boyfriend.
It was rape, even though we’d had consensual sex before.
It was rape, because I did not consent.
It was rape, even though I was coerced into saying yes.

It was rape, even though I knew her.
It was rape, even though I was penetrated with a gun.
It was rape, even though it was in a car.
It was rape, because I screamed no over and over.

It was rape, even though it only lasted a couple minutes.
It was rape, even though I’d been drinking.
It was rape, even though I knew him.
It was rape, because he held me down after I said no several times.

It was rape. Period. None of this non-consensual sex bullshit. There is sex. There is rape.

~Sarah

Yeah, it’s about you

Sometimes I find myself thinking about you

And the relationship we had

Your family

How happy I thought we were

How you made me laugh

And how you made me cry

I think about all the times I cried myself to sleep

While you slept like a baby next to me

And I think about all the adventures we had

The places you showed me

The memories we will always share

And I think about that time

You know this one too

That first time you pinned me to the bed

You were tickling me

At first it was fun

But then you tickled me even after I said stop

And the second time you pinned me to the bed

Tickling me

But it wasn’t so fun

Cause I knew what was coming

And then I think about that time

The one where you threw the heater at me

Because I didn’t want it on

And you did

How it was my fault

How every time I opened my mouth

It was not my place

It was always my fault when you got upset

And then you would cry

And you would say you were sorry

And you would beg me not to leave

Cause everyone always left you

At first I genuinely believed you

And I genuinely thought I was in the wrong

And then you would push me when we would disagree

And I was clumsy

I should watch where I step

And then

Then you laughed

You laughed because you knew I was stuck

You laughed because you knew you won

You laughed because

Because you had succeeded in tearing me down

You had succeeded in isolating me

You had succeeded at your goal

You had succeeded to make me your bitch

All while I thought you loved me

All while telling me that was forever

And then I started feeling bad for you

And I tried to help you

I told myself that things would get better

If only I could make you happy

If only I could be a better partner

Not be so argumentative

Hold my tongue

Do what you said

And then I lost my job

Because you needed me

And I had enough

I was done

I needed things in life

And I wasn’t going to let you take my basic needs

Not anymore

You didn’t like that

So you created a situation

Leaving me on the street

And you went and found yourself another victim

I think about you

I wonder how you are doing

I wonder if you are happy

I wonder if you think about me

And then I remember

The memories we will always share

~Sarah

Promises

Please

Please don’t call me friend

Unless you mean it

And don’t tell me you love me

Unless it’s all of me

And don’t tell me you’ll always be there

When you have no intention of sticking around

Yes

This is coming from a place of hurt

Because being let down hurts

It leaves one guarded

Defensive

Apprehensive

Being told one thing

And shown something else

Leaves one to second guess

It creates an emptiness

That’ll never really be filled again

Please don’t call me friend

Unless you really mean it

And don’t tell me you love me

Unless you love all of me

And do not tell me you’ll always be there

When you have no intention of sticking around.

Not Your Church

Some of my closest friends are evangelical Christians. I used to be as well. However, I always struggled with what I was subscribing to. I didn’t like that I was shamed for being gay, it’s the way I was born. I don’t agree that I was ‘born sinful as we all are.’ There is nothing that makes kindling to the fire of my anger quite like the sentiment of “love the sinner but hate the sin”. I disagree that because of my abuse I was dirty and needed to be made clean; whatever that means. I subscribed because I liked the idea of the ‘community’ that the church claims to provide, the family that they are supposed to be. I needed those things; I desperately needed a family and a safe haven. I was misled by the words people preached, but that they did not follow. I was drawn in and then dropped…the moment I spoke out against such hypocrisy. Like most of humanity the church is flawed and fallible. Understandable, since they are baited into an abusive relationship with this all knowing God of unfailing love but whom also punishes you to hell and damnation. Its contradictory isn’t it?

As a gay person, a gay woman. As a trafficking survivor. As someone whose struggled with debilitating mental and physical health issues. As someone who never had the parental guidance needed to be a successful human and as someone who’s struggled for everything I have…I have been severely judged by the church. Severely judged is putting it kindly. Yet, I was the ‘poster child’ for many things when I was part of the evangelical community. It was my story people would use, with and more troublingly without permission, as testimony of ‘God’s saving grace.’ As if I was the one who needed grace for being the victim. It was my story that got used to lead others to an alter call. It was my story of loyalty, of compassion, of resilience…nailed to the cross for everyone to see. I was the spectacle of God’s grace. The church wants to throw judgements at you and then in the same breath ask to use your testimony. It’s all a taking game with nothing to give but false hope and an insidiously abusive relationship.

This is not just one isolated incident, it has happened at every church I have ever been to. I ‘grew up’ going to a church where I was repeatedly raped inside the church. Behind the closed doors of the chapel, on the stage below the cross that shows the true nature of God’s love and forgiveness, the public murder of his only child. The symbol of an abiding love through God’s grace shown by the Roman tool of torture and massacre. That as long as the acts you commit are in God’s name, even sacrifice of the sanctity of life, that it is all for some disembodied “greater good” you are practicing in the light in the lord. People using the name of God and shouting scripture at me as they forcibly violated my innocent being. At a church I went to in high school, I was told I was dirty and dishonoring to my parents for leaving the ‘family’ which had trafficked me, sold me, and raped me my entire life. If that’s not backwards, I don’t know what is. Yet another church claims “God told them I was lying about my story.” As though God speaks to individuals. As though God would judge me. As though only they had true access to the real intent of the most magnificent creature in all of creation, while that same person raped teenage girls. Just three examples of too many churches failing at the things they are called to do, the things they claim to do, and things they don’t do. The evils that they claim to fight against are all too often found to happen behind their closed doors.

This is why I don’t go to church, because the church is a vortex of shame and abuse. The church wounds more souls than it saves. The church is lethal. Not because religion in and of itself is bad. Belief, true belief, is the most beautiful and yet the most destructive thing on the planet. Religion is the thing that often means the absolute most to people…therefore it is the thing they are willing to do almost anything for. Religion then, like any other tool, can be used for good or for evil. The most insidious thing is when it is used to commit great acts of evil in the name of good. That is the Church.

Abusive Love

Lauren was my first love. And I believe some part of me will always love her. She was a very important part of my life…[un]fortunately that was only for a season. Things ended very badly…

I never thought it could happen to me

Not because I’m above it

But because I thought I would notice the signs

I thought I would see the subtleties

I thought my horrific past made me immune

I thought

But my past made it easier

And the subtleties were everywhere

I excused them as love

As someone who really cared for me

When things progressed beyond subtle

I was already stuck

I was already making excuses for small things

The big things followed suite

And it was easy

It was easy to be ok with being screamed at

It was easy to hide my emotions

It was easy to let her control

It was natural

And I found reasons I deserved it

I was bad

I was dirty

My emotions were irrational

I needed controlled so I didn’t get out of control

I deserved being held down

Talked down

And my needs pushed aside

I was ‘paying my dues’

It wasn’t until it cost me a job that I realized

It wasn’t until she didn’t want me anymore that I realized

It wasn’t until my heart was already so in love

Yet so broken that I realized

This is not safe

This is not healthy

This is not what I want my life to be

Abusive love

~ ~ ~

Why does my playlist symbolize

All the good times I thought we had

What you led me to believe we were

Why did you lie to me

Why did you hurt me

Why did you give me a single red rose

Explaining that you were giving me your heart

I held it so gently

While you stomped on mine

While you drug me through the mud

And told me it was all my fault

That it was all in my head

Even the thoughts in my own head

Started to reflect what you told me I was

Though I had worked so hard to think for myself

You swooped in

At a vulnerable time

And made me believe

That I was still on the right path

In reality

You had taken charge

You placed yourself in my head

Not a single thought I had after a while was mine

You made me believe it all was

Oh, you are good at your game

You brought me in

Wrapped me tight

Tight enough

To suffocate most of me

Tight enough for me to release control

For one last breath

You let me keep the illusion

That you loved me

Until I wasn’t good enough

Good enough for your love any longer

And then you said “let’s be friends”

And it was downhill from there

Those three words released me into the world

But you wanted me to fight for you

So you could turn me down

You wanted me to beg for you not to leave

Beg you to stay

Tell you I needed you

When I didn’t do those things

You got angry

Had I done that

The result would have been similar

But you would have taken me back

To keep the control

There was no winning with you

I always lost

You always win your game

And when you don’t

It’s “poor Lauren”

It always happens TO you

You don’t take responsibility

And you refuse to see reality

An open letter of apology

An open letter of apology

 

I am sorry

For all the times I couldn’t protect you

For all the times I took the blame when it wasn’t mine to take

For all the horrible things I thought about you

For all of the times I hurt you

For all the abuse I brought onto you

For all the stupid situations I put you in

For all the unspoken words

For all of the times I left you when things got hard

For all of the times I opened my mouth when I shouldn’t have

For all of the regrets I have

For all of the times I let you down

For all of the times I tried to end the only thing you had

I am sorry

 

An open letter of thanks

Thank you

For persevering

For not giving up on me

For not leaving me

For learning to trust me

Thank you

 

Sincerely,

The one who knows you best