My Friend is a Survivor of Human Trafficking
One of the greatest gifts as an author for me is fan mail, which I view as a letter from a reader friend. My goal with sharing books is to not acquire fans, but to gain friends, and that those friends and I will support each other in growing closer to God and leaning on him and not our own understandings.
There’s no denying the excitement of finding a new email in the inbox. My most favorite part of these emails is always when a reader shares a chapter of his/her life story with me, a confirmation that I am on the right path God has designated specifically for me. Even on the tough days, when harsh reviews or difficult writing days show up, I have those emails in a folder that I can rely on to give me the courage to keep moving forward.
In that folder, I have an email dated back in December 2015. It has impacted my life incredibly, thus beginning one of the most precious friendships I’ve ever experienced.
Dear T.I, I read your story (Lulu’s Café) in one night. You see, I am a survivor of sex trafficking from the ages of 6-23 and nights are hard. I've been safe for 5 years now. And I found myself seeing me in your words ... In Gabriela's story and journey. Thank you for making a sleepless night beautiful. With appreciation, Liz
Liz and I have exchanged many more emails over the years, quite personal and will be kept between us, but she gave me permission to share the first one.
Did you catch Liz’s age when she was sold into human trafficking? 6! Let me repeat… Liz was 6 years old! That fact hits you square in the chest, doesn’t it? Another fact that should hurt just a deeply: This happened to her in America—the land of the free, where she was enslaved and abused for 17 years.
Do y’all get how important it is to be aware? January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and is the reason I am sharing this email with you, to help raise awareness.
At the time I received Liz’s first email, I was actually working on the first draft of Until I Don’t, which includes the subject of human trafficking. Insert God Wink! There is no doubting that God brought Liz and me into this ordained friendship. Once we got to know each other a little better, I asked Liz if she would share some of her testimony with me and then give me permission to use parts of it in the book. She graciously did:
I am wrong. I am bad. I have to earn love, approval, and affection. It is only appropriate if someone else initiates. I am inappropriate. I am a failure. I am a burden. I am a whore. I won't amount to anything. I will fail at my new life. I am failing. I deserve to be hurt. I deserve to be alone. I will always struggle. I will always be in lack. I am not enough. I have no value aside from what I do for others. I am a mistake. I have no value. It will never get easier and it will never get better.
These are lies I live with. My counselor has helped me realize they are lies. My head understands, but my heart does not.
Those words… Lies for sure, but they held her captive nonetheless. Below is another part of her testimony I shared in the book.
When I first became free, I would shower so often because I wanted to scrub the horror off my skin. I was terrified to sleep because of what my brain might have me remember. Being sold by your mom, I believed it meant I was worthless and that I needed to earn love. That was my life from 6 until 23. I just wanted someone to love me but I believed I was unlovable and worthless.
But slowly, it began to change in my heart. Being sold has defined me. But now I want something different to define me. Being free is harder than I imagined because it is so different from what I knew. I have to keep choosing to be free - not from being trafficked, but because I have to believe in my own freedom.
I have an apartment now. I have my own place to call home. I have my own bedroom and no one knocks on my door at night. I don't take for granted that I have a keychain with actual keys that work to keep people in or out. It was one of the proudest moments for me, when I realized I had that kind of power now.
The hardest thing though is to begin to dream when I've settled for so much less and believed so many lies. But I'm starting to make a vision and dream for my life and finally believing that I will actually make it something beautiful.
I used to think that being sold was the most important piece about me. But, now, maybe it's that I'm choosing to stay free and find more areas of freedom for myself. I want my life to be beautiful and for whatever I really do to matter. But mostly, I want to find other girls in the darkness and give them a safe place and tell them they have the keys now, too.
Liz’s life has been a long journey of continuous struggles, but she is an overcomer. A survivor. A hero. She was able to get the help she needed through the non-profit organization Courage Worldwide, while living in their group home in California, receiving counseling and rehabilitation. This organization equipped her with the tools needed to find her place in the world. Through their support, she has been able to discover her God-given talent as an artist!
I’m blessed to know Liz and so grateful for organizations such as Courage Worldwide. Their mission is rescue victims of human trafficking and help rehabilitate them. It is why I donate to them when I can. This month all book earnings for Until I Don’t will be donated to Courage Worldwide, and I am also matching that number. My part may be small, but I’m dedicated on doing it.
-How to do your part-
-Find an organization to support, financially. Even when I can only give a little, I still give. It all helps, so give what you can.
-Share this blog post on social media to help spread awareness.
-Like and Follow Courage Worldwide, so that you will be kept aware also. It’s easy to be indifferent about something when it’s out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Be diligently aware!
-Pray. I’m a strong believer in the power of prayer. Victims need prayer and organizations supporting them need prayer.
-You can also purchase Until I Don’t to help. I have it on a countdown deal for 99 cents January 14th-21st to help boost sales so I will hopefully have more to donate to Courage Worldwide.
Thank you as always for allowing me to share with y’all.