Slavery Still Exists
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness month I am bringing back the blog that shook up our community or at least my personal community. This blog lead me on a deep journey that showed me the power that imagery can have. This blog was the beginning and I am relieved to finally have the courage to hurt your feelings, make you sick and shake you to the core with the deep dark that people in our own town are living in. Welcome back to the story behind the heart project called, “Healing The Darkness.”
Broken people still smile.
Today, I want to share with you a story. It's a heavy story, but it's an important story that you must be aware of. Often, business owners want to stay out of the realm of negativity as well as despair and normally I do, but with April being sexual assault awareness month I must take a moment to educate those who follow me and those who do not know me and what I stand for as a woman in business and someone who has been assaulted multiple times in my life. It's time that I stop being ashamed and show you what is under the covers. However, my story I will save for a different day, today I want to share a story of the voiceless. The women, little girls and little boys who have no one to turn to and speak up with. I want to be their voice until they are strong enough to share it on their own. Let me start with yesterday....
I was holding this woman in my arms, she was shivering. I calmly stroked her hair and shoulders. Her skin was clamy, a lot like sick patients I used to take care of in the hospital. As I held her, I could feel my shirt being soaked in tears and I just sat there still, steady and quiet. I didn't want to shush her like I do with my own children, she needed to let it out, she needed to scream her pain off of her chest. I had been waiting four weeks for her to get here. Four weeks for her to finally feel safe and at ease with letting out her pain.
Four weeks ago this woman sent me a message:
I have heard a lot about you, and would love to maybe schedule that free consult! I am kinda reaching out for a couple reasons... first and foremost, I feel like I have lost my smile a bit, and I am really searching for it! And from what I have heard, I do believe you are the woman for the job :) I am also just looking to kind of re-brand myself a bit.
I would love to talk more if I could sometime! <3
Thank you for what you do for everyone, especially women!!
I do what I normally do and looked her up on Facebook to get some background information before responding. She was a dancer, a ballroom dancer! I thought to myself, "now that is something I have not photographed before!" I responded back and we set up a date to meet. The day of her consult was vivid. I greeted her at the door and the space and confidence she held was impressing. I pegged her at mid twenties. As we sat down I could see she was a bit nervous out of the corner of my eye, but that's not uncommon. Having your portrait taken is a very vulnerable experience. We chatted about what I offer, the pricing and product and then I asked her what I ask everyone, "Why do you want to be photographed? What do you want these photographs for?" The answer is always a bit different, however, her answer was a little bit more personal. She had been let go from her dancing job and was searching to start over with a clean slate. Her friends suggested she try modeling? Her uncertain answer tipped me off. "She isn't looking for just a few photos, she is searching for healing." I asked more questions, hoping she would let me in a bit deeper so I could figure out how I could serve her. She told me she had a very rough childhood and had been taken advantage of so many times. I asked her more about her past jobs hoping for a clue for what kind of portraits I could provide, she spoke with confidence and certainty. I loved that quality, I also loved how she lit up room with her laughter. In the back of my mind I knew that she wasn't quite ready to invest in photos. Not because of finances, but because she was unsure of what she wanted. I was looking for an assistant and based on her experience she just covered, her energy and triumphs I decided to do something a bit impulsive. I offered her a job. She looked a bit shocked and asked if she could think about it. I of course agreed and we parted ways with a deep hug. Not a casual pat on the back hug, but a deep, deep hug. She apologized for hugging so hard and explained that, "I just really love hugging people."
She called back a few days later asking to pursue the opportunity. We set up a time to go through paperwork and the job in more detail before our first shoot. As we were setting up I asked her more personal questions. She is only 21 after all so I am sure her family is around. NOPE. She explained that her mother + father had her and her brother really young and when she couldn't afford to take care of them, she would turn to prostitution. WHAT?!? (is what I said in my head). But, growing up in a life of poverty myself, I responded with more compassion. I knew how hard it was for me to raise my daughter at 19 years old. I understood the struggle. We went on with the shoot and I could tell that she was a little uneasy during some sets, they were a bit more sultry as I do offer boudoir photography for women looking to gift their husbands something special. I figured it was due to what she had told me about her mother. I asked her afterward and she assured me it was not because of that. She said, "I want to tell you more but I am afraid to. I don't want your heart to break." Just her response broke me a little, because I then knew there was much more to her story.
The following week we meet up to go over more work stuff over lunch. We were seated in Qdoba. She was asking me for dating advice. I looked over and boldly stated what I wished I would have asked. "Are you ready for marriage? Do you feel that you are at your full potential and can offer your best self to someone right now?" She hung her head quiet. "No." I then responded in love, "then you should not be dating anyone right now, you're not ready and it's a waste of time." She nodded in agreement and then pursued to tell me more about how she was assaulted in college and that's why she left her home and moved down here. I could relate, so I listened and empathized with her. She then drew in a huge breath and said, "I want to tell you why I was uneasy at the shoot yesterday." I leaned in closer with the look of, "okay, go on." Her breathing grew faster and she said, "My step-dad was a pornographer. I was a bit shocked as I had never knew anyone personally say that. I only heard of it through TV shows and movies. But what she said next shattered my world down to the ground. "And, I was his subject." My breath was sucked out of me. Tears began to fall down my cheeks as I uttered, "how old were you and for how long?" Her face softened a bit, and I could see her shivering through her clothes and as she told me that it started when she was 3/4 until she was ten. She then shared that because of that and the damage done to her body she would never be able to have kids of her own. I immediately stood up searching for her deep hug and to embrace this "little girl." I was so angry and upset, and she was consoling ME! I apologized for not knowing and gave her the ticket OUT of any future boudoir shoots that I did. She thanked me and then chuckled, "well, it was kinda therapeutic to see a woman being so respected and loved on by other women. They way you lifted her up was incredible." My heart skipped a beat with joy as I heard her response. I have the power transform the way women see themselves and their value. Incredible.
The weeks have passed and she has shared with me so much more. More of her past, more of her present and what's most exciting is more of her future. The plans that my assistant, Shania has for the future are just the beginning of her story. The big juicy dreams that she has will, without a doubt make an incredible impact in our community and our worlds. Because of Shania my eyes have been opened. Not only to the reality of this epidemic in our town, right here in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but to the capability we have as Jesus lovers. I am not a certified therapist. What I do know how to do is this, ask, listen and serve. The day that Shania let go and let me hold her "under the covers to her hidden shame was just yesterday." It was after I asked her to dance for the voiceless, for me and for those who suffer and have suffered and most of all to dance and celebrate her healing journey.
Human Sex trafficking is a huge problem right here in our town. Would you consider joining me in helping with the cause? I have proudly switched my customer bags over the Harriet Bag's from Eye Heart World. That way every client of mine can carry the cause and ask questions. And my cause is not only for Shania, but all the voiceless victims who are affected...