Lent 2019 – Anticipation of Renewal

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Some readers may have seen “Advent – the First 12 Days” posted on Dec 3, 2018.  While I intended to add 12 more days later that month, life intervened.  Lent is also a traditional time of preparation for new light so I will take this opportunity to share more reflections – and continue my alphabet.

Day 1:  While  Missing and Murdered are the underlying themes of much of my writing, I like to include links and thoughts about addictions, trauma, resilience and healthy coping.

Two significant authors are recommended for further reading:

Victor Malarek, award-winning Canadian journalist, has dared to expose the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women around the world.  The Natashas (2004) examines the shocking reality of human trafficking in the worldwide sex industry with focus on women from poverty stricken countries of Europe.  The Johns (2010) presents a revolutionary look into the dark world of customers who make these horrific violations profitable, men who fuel the demand.

Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician, writes eloquently with insight into the foibles of the human condition and has authored several books.  In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction (2008) suggests addiction is a case of human development gone askew, a struggle for relief or escape from pain.

Day 2:  The National Center of Sexual Exploitation, an American organization, was founded in 1962 and has evolved to advocate for a world free for sexual exploitation.  NCOSE is based on defending human dignity, exposes the links between all forms of sexual exploitation, and advances the public health crisis of pornography as one of the links often overlooked by society.

NSOSE conducts political activism, provides educational resources, maintains a research website, and leads a Coalition which unites various fields and perspectives.  Much more information is available on their website: endsexualexploitation.org.

Day 3:  Please take Opportunity to research the books and websites mentioned.  We are all busy with many things but hopefully will take time to expand our awareness and find unique ways to make a positive difference.

Optimism can be a driving force as we move in the direction of our thoughts.

Day 4:  The amazing memoir, Paid For (2013) by Rachel Moran, deserves special promotion.  This book has been described as a paradigm shifter by those who dare to read it.  It provides a poignant perspective of the trauma experienced by girls and women who are driven to prostitution to survive.

A personal project in 2016 was to distribute over 40 copies of this book to political and community leaders.  Although very few even acknowledge receipt of my gift, one woman thanked me several times for helping her see a new perspective.

Day 5:  Quintessential, one of my favorite words, means the pure essence, perfect example, definitive and fundamental.  Questions to consider are: what is the quintessential nature of consent? dignity? freedom? honor? liberty? respect? rights?

The above words are often used in a contradictory context.  For example, some argue their “right” to purchase sex or view pornography trumps the dignity and freedom of those participating in the sale or production.  Such attitudes support exploitation.  The quintessential human right of vulnerable people is that their dignity and freedom be honored in all situations.

Day 6:  Red Dresses have become symbols of missing and murdered women in North America.  I salute the many artistic installations and photography projects that have been developed.  The first Red Dress installations were created by Metis artist Jamie Black of Winnipeg.  The REdress Photography Project was developed by Mufty Mathewson of Edmonton.

However, recognition and remembering are not enough.  We must support the recovery of vulnerable women who have survived and we must continue to work for legislative and social changes that provide real alternatives.

Day 7:  The STOP: Sex Trade Offender Program  was developed 1997 in Edmonton as an Alternative Measure for men charged with a first offense.  It is offered through Alberta Justice in cooperation with Edmonton Police Services, Probation and Crown Prosecutors with funds returned to the community to help heal the harms cause by sexual exploitation.  Sept 24 in the Autumn manuscript provides an overview.

Two examples of Survivor Stories (Coco and Kendra) are found on pages Sept 26 and Nov 9.  For further reading, please consider Trafficked (2012) by Sophie Hayes and Prostitution Narratives (2016) edited by Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist.

Day 8:  Trauma Treatment

The depth of trauma experienced by women caught in sexual exploitation is described by Rachel Moran in her book Paid For.  Some examples include:

Dissociation is a necessary but dangerous thing… Continually denying any painful lived reality inevitably causes a person to become separated from their own self… ” (p. 138)

“[she] has no rights to set the boundaries of her sexual experience, no right to object… Her body is there to accommodate the sexual experience of another, no matter what anguish it causes her, regardless what it demands of her, and regardless how damaging and degrading she may find it to be… (p.140)

Thankfully, many women are able to escape the horror of their exploitation and are witness to the tragedy of their entrapment and the strength required for recovery.

Day 9:  We are all Unique individuals.  May we find balance in developing our own potential while respecting the Universal rights of others.

Day 10:  My Vision is a world where all citizens are treated with equality and respect, where the vulnerable are protected from victimization.

Day 11:  Wisdom ~ Words hovering in my consciousness over the years include those from the ancient Greek poet Aechylus:

Even in our sleep, pain which we cannot forget   falls drop by drop upon the heart   until, in our own despair,   against our will,   comes wisdom   through the awful grace of God.”

Where I first heard those words, I no longer remember.  A recent google search revealed they were quoted by Senator Robert Kennedy on April 4, 1968, when he announced the death of Martin Luther King to a waiting crowd.  Martin Luther King had dedicated his life to a world of love and justice, so I will accept that occasion as my introduction to the idea that wisdom is a matter of the heart wrought by pain.

Day 12:  Youth of today are the recipients of yesterday and creators of tomorrow.  May we guide them well so they are confident in their abilities, capable of tempering achievement with empathy, and happy to work for a world of equality and justice.