parents selling children

Responding to Shaniya’s Fate

Like many of you, I can’t get Shaniya Davis out of my mind. I replay mental pictures of her sweet face, then fast forward to grim imaginations of what her last hours were like. And I weep.

Many people have expressed their own reactions to me, after hearing of this five year old being trafficked for sex- by her mother- and then murdered. I’ve heard rants and rage poured out in detailed descriptions of castration, being drawn and quartered and a special section in hell for the perpetrators. I have seen the pain and confusion on people’s faces that such a nightmare could be true and not just part of a macabre horror movie.

I understand. I burn with anger too, as I believe God does, for the injustice, the cruelty, the unbridled lust and gross misuse of power toward this vulnerable child who could not even hope to defend herself. But for the perpetrators, I feel pity. To be able to do what they did, they must have been , and still are, living in their own personal hell on earth. They have their own stories of misuse, lovelessness, addictions, and wrong choices that led them to this precipice. They are surely among the most miserable of people, having lost their very humanity. I hate the lies they believed. I hate the selfishness within each of us, including myself, that thankfully doesn’t reach this level of expression for most.

So as I weep and my heart aches mercilessly, I tell myself that this all must be channeled effectively. That something good must come from such unspeakable evil. We must bring truth and light into the dark society that teaches our citizens, from childhood, that value lies in sex appeal and that girls (and sometimes boys) are merely orifices for pleasure. We must fight all that devalues life and feeds the self-absorption that leads us to disregard the worth of another human being in the pursuit of our own desires.

And we must do all we can to cripple the travesty of human trafficking. It changes nothing to say “Oh, how horrible”, then turn away and continue with our life as usual. Or “I hope someone does something.” Or “The government needs to do more.” We must stop the kingdom building in anti-trafficking organizations where branding and media attention sometimes overshadow the mission of ending slavery, and competition for dollars keeps us from working cooperatively.

For a crime this rampant - the #2 and fastest growing in the world- it will take a movement. It will take each of us doing what we can, no matter how small. Because all our small contributions, pieced together, add up to something very large. Because nothing else has any hope of bringing change.  And because maybe, just maybe, we can keep the same fate Shaniya faced, from happening to another child.

In Their Own Words #2

Chelsey lived a seemingly “normal” middle class life with her family in Georgia, but at age 10 her life forever changed when she was sold as a prostitute by her own father. Chelsey’s story is one of redemption. After her escape, she managed to graduate from high school and received a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia. Chelsey is now working on her master’s degree. The following is an excerpt of a journal passage Chelsey wrote during her unfathomable ordeal: “As I hang from the beam of a dim, musky, cold basement, I think of as many descriptive words as possible for the body parts I loathe the most. I have endured 14 hands, 70 fingers, all the while my hands are tied. They are numb from being laced above my head and are exhausted from supporting the rest of my body. I am naked, beaten, bleeding, and alone. Sunshine creeps in through the holes in the shades and amplifies my new wounds. I am coming down from a large dose of cocaine and I hope that at least one pair of hands returns to feed me some more. I close my eyes because the drips of sun, of life hurt, and I begin thinking of names of presidents and countries. Dusk approaches with footsteps. I count 14 feet, 70 toes, returning for another round. I inhale, I exhale, I brace myself. I close my eyes, ask silently for death, and hope they have enough blow to get me through the night. I am twelve years old.”

From The Columbus Dispatch July 28, 2009