Lately when people ask me about my work and make statements about it being super depressing and traumatizing I have been countering them with “actually, right now we are in the fun part. It’s really not depressing at all”. It’s true. For the past 3 months or so most of my interactions with the girls have been filled with glee! Lots of laughter, joyful singing and dancing, jokes and poking fun at each other, fun milestones like the first day of school or hearing a girl use her voice for the first time. It has been lots and lots of fun. I was even speaking to our project manager the other day and talking about how we don’t really need to be going for our trauma therapy sessions right now because we aren’t encountering much trauma as a staff in this season. Who needs therapy for “the fun part”? She agreed.
Soon after making that statement I found myself sitting across from her in a pile of tears at a booth in a local coffee shop unable to function. Words I’d heard just days before were riding a merry-go-round in my brain and every lap stole my breath and clenched my chest. I was trying to breathe. I kept hearing them over and over. The words of an abusive mother telling her child of how much joy she is going to get from selling her teenage body to men on the street. How she hopes her daughter contracts HIV like she has so she can watch her suffer. Watching this teenager cry and literally beg her mother, “Mummy please. Please love me. I’m sorry”. When I got into the car instead of letting what happened affect me I held my youngest daughter on my lap and sang silly songs to her. Because this is the “fun part”. I ‘m not sad. No one is sad during the fun part. Days later I’m in tears over a latte in a coffee shop.
The next day I found myself thinking about how much I wanted another latte as I was informed that two of our children had been returned to the danger of child sexual exploitation, and moments later when I was having a conversation about the possibility of losing them forever I found myself unable to stop thinking about what I wanted to eat for dinner. Coffee, food, anything but sadness. This is the fun part.
Today, the day before we hand them over to child protective services, the day that “Ima” (not her real name) prances around my house in a sunflower-yellow dress dancing to freedom songs, I find myself unable to cry, unable to admit the reality of what is happening. I just keep making myself more cups of coffee and totally avoiding the reality of it all. Cus we are in the “fun part”. 9-year-olds in sunflower dresses aren’t raped in the fun part. I don’t have to hand 2 children whom I have loved like my own for 8 months over to the authorities not knowing if I’ll ever see them again in the “fun part”. There’s popcorn in the fun part. And sleepovers. And rape-free homes and reconciled families.
But once again I re-learn the hard lesson that as survivors we aren’t working towards arriving. We aren’t working to arrive at healing or arrive at the fun part where reality no longer exists and everything is as yellow as Ima’s dress. We are journeying. We, they, my children are journeying toward justice and healing. There is no pressure to arrive. The journey is the goal, not the arrival. And sometimes the journey includes 5 days of being held in a man’s house, then rescued and handed over to child protective services. Sometimes it looks like me only being a part of their journey, but not having the joy of seeing them throughout it. It’s heartbreaking, completely heartbreaking. But the tears don’t come as much as I will them to. So I write.
I write this to say the things I can’t yet say out loud. To see my current reality, which is currently so intertwined with two children I love very much, spread across a page. To share our reality with this page in hopes that it being so close to my face will cause me to look it. Really look at it. Which allows the tears to come. Looking truth dead in the face has a way of freeing my tears. This comes along with the familiar feelings of “I don’t want to get out of bed today” and “I don’t want to talk about work I just wanna lay in bed and watch New Girl” and “ I really just want to go home to America for a while and do anything but talk about child rape”. But since none of these things bring justice to a crooked world, I allow myself some time for them, but then I do climb out of bed, open my computer and type truth til it’s staring me dead in the face and causes tears to come. Then I close this computer, cry it all out to God, hear Him tell me it’s worth it. Each of these girls are worth it. Justice is coming and every one of my tears brings us closer to it. I cry it out. Then I choose which dress to wear tomorrow as I say goodbye to my precious sunflower girls ❤