A 5 year Facebook memory popped up.. 2014: I posted about being nervous going to Long Creek Youth Development Center as a volunteer, and survivor. Wow… that was a big day in my life and I had no idea what that day would mean at the time.
Prior to that day very few knew my about my past. It was told only on a need to know basis. Even then, I only told the tiniest cliff note version. Usually I would say my “quirks” (ie jumping three feet in the air when startled, not drinking)… was because of “a rape”. I figured “A” rape would be explanation enough.
But 5 years ago… I told the whole story to a small room of strangers, employees at a jail for kids. Not only did I not freak out and go into self-induced panic attack as I feared… but my story… totally unexpectedly… helped those folks and gave them something that I really didn’t understand yet… HOPE. They needed to hear a happy ending. Surviving, and thriving. Five years later, I now know 3 girls who have left the system and died from overdosing. Others have gone back to “the life”. A few have gone back to school and are slowly crawling their way to a healthier life. Ya… happy endings are hard to come by… and that’s just totally unacceptable.
Its been an interesting journey for me… a closet survivor, coming out with blaring intentions … I came out 100%… no filter. All or none. I chose all. I was OVER hiding. People needed to be educated and my holding back just was no longer an option. I had nothing to lose and children to save.
My volunteer emergence was well-timed and aligned with a community event with the internationally known and respected Ruchira Gupta, brought to Maine by Cathy Lee, the Justice For Women organization and UMaine Law.
But suddenly, I was being told what I can and can’t and should and shouldn’t say, do, post… I remember saying at one meeting, “Do I understand that the role you want from me is to be the token survivor and keep my mouth shut?” A women across the DA’s conference room table answered, “yes you understand your position correctly”. I was shocked. I was so honored to be chosen to be on this panel. My heart was so full of possibility that someone like me could be respected and used to help others, But BOOM… I felt like I was in middle school with the mean girls all over again. But maybe it was just my wounded post trauma paranoia… so I asked a woman who was part of the group, I liked and respected her, so I asked if I could have a reality check… she confirmed my fear and said I was right on… I was absolutely not liked. Now what?
I chose ME. My friend Beth suggested that I attend any speaking opportunity I could find, and just be ME. God love her. She even came with me and sat in the audience. And I was ME… bold, clear, honest, passionate. As a result, I was asked more questions than anyone else on the panel and surrounded by fans at the end. Beth hurried me out so I could breathe again. I think I held my breath the entire time.
Welcome to my new path – choosing to be of service to survivors, to help them, and the community I so badly wanted to reach. I longed to tell them what was going on right underneath their noses… right here in Maine… soooo many children being sexually abused!
I believed with every cell in my being that IF THEY ( our community) ONLY KNEW… then they would make it stop! I wanted to scream from the roof tops. I felt possessed by a drive to personally reach every single one of the 1.3 million people in Maine. I didn’t have to save anyone…I just had to educate our state and THEY would save themselves and each other. Seriously… I totally believed that then and now.
Next, WCSH News Center 6 asked to interview me, they wanted me on camera at Long Creek. This was a really big step since I didn’t want to shame or embarrass my new husband and his family. I also wondered about my Pimp, was he alive? Would he recognize me? Would he come after me and kill me? I asked my closest family and friends if it was ok for me to come out publicly…on the 6 o’clock news for God’s sake?! They promised to use my Maiden name “Mossman” since I was so truly worried about shaming my friends and family. Everyone was hugely supportive, most of all my husband who insisted I use his (my married) name because he was proud of me. I also called the police and asked the whereabouts of my Pimp… and hey, if I show up missing or dead after the news story…it may be at his hand. Sure enough he was/is, alive and well. A terrifying truth.
I joined a couple of anti trafficking groups but truthfully I didn’t feel wanted or needed so after awhile I just stopped going. I have never felt like survivors were really wanted at the table. “We” were there but we weren’t respected, given any real authority or paid for our input. I felt like we were tolerated at best. This is my reality, I can’t speak to the way any other survivors feel. I asked to be of help, to serve… I was told yes but then never got invited. There were a few people that were kind… I always sat next to them at meetings or events. Let me say that the truth is that this feeling of being separate, unwanted… this feeling of competition vs collaboration might be my imagination. My perspective is my reality…but that doesn’t mean it the Truth. I so hoped that someone would believe in me, see me as a great asset and utilize me for the greater good.
This of course triggered old beliefs… I am utterly socially unwanted unacceptable unlovable…
Still, I willingly went to Long Creek weekly for years. I also visitied on an as needed basis and co-facilitated a weekly group for at risk girls. The volunteer coordinators at Long Creek are Saints. Love them! If I had the money I would create a trauma-informed program there for the STAFF! Correctional officers, beside police, fireman and other first responders, have the 6th highest suicide rate. Just sayin…When they moved the head of the girls group to the boys unit, a Jerry Springer political chess move…the girls not only lost me but many of the programs that had worked so well… welcome to institutional red tape.
Still… my time at Long Creek while Beth and the girls unit was amazing. Beth handpicked the girls she felt were ready to heal. Her years of working with incarcerated girls gave her insight far beyond book smarts. She was a tough love maternal force the deeply impacted the lives of countless girls over decades. For many, Beth was the person that felt like a real “Mom” to them. Even if they went on to prison… they called Beth …no one else… on Mothers Day. Beth’s influence was farrrrrr beyond the call of a job description. She was one of 12 women across the country to be honored for her work with girls/women incarcerated. It was an honor, and an education, to hold my girls group in her office for 3 hours every week with separate visits if a girl requested some alone time with me. There is nothing like witnessing the connection and impact a survivor has with other survivors. Beth totally got that. Many girls were helped in deeply meaningful ways.
Next up, I hired my first marketing team and held a fundraising event. I learned a lot… and I paid (out of my own pocket) for my mistakes. I started meeting great people. And… I was utterly ignorant to the political manipulations/maneuvers. I had no idea that doing what was right didn’t hold more weight than who brought it to the table… #wakeupcall
The first year as Stop trafficking US was about learning, starting my journey to being of service to my community. What services do we have in Maine? Who does what? Where are we strong? Where do we need more support? Who is in the sand box on this massive issue… who plays well? Who doesn’t? I had my life experience… I had to learn about the laws, service providers, roles everyone was playing… Who was really doing something or just saying they were? I learned the cause and effect from PRE BIRTH (no kidding) on up through the developmental stages … addictions, neglect, food insecurity, homelessness, runaways, bulling, self harm, mental illness, PTSD, gender and sexuality considerations…
Let’s consider Flint Michigan with their issue of high levels of toxic lead in the water. There is the cause “Lead in the water” and there is overwhelming far reaching effects of that lead in the water.
This was my learning curve about sex trafficking. I lived it but now I had to learn all about it from all perspectives.
My husband Charlie says, “A well prepared person is hard to compete with.” I say a well prepared person is vital to being ready to answer questions beyond one’s own experience. I have no problem answering with “I don’t know that answer right now, I’ll find out and get back to you”. But I’d rather know it up front. I had a lot to learn. So what good can I do?
What do I have within me that would be the most value to the goal of educating 1.3 million people in Maine? How can I offer hope to survivors? How can I be the best beacon of understanding, hope, love? How can I… STOP GROWN UPS FROM HAVING SEX WITH CHILDREN? What is my part to play? What is my narrow lane? Dilution is not the solution. Who do I think I am? I thought I could be way more useful if I did what that one lady said and just shut up, do what Im told and let “them” use me however they see fit. I could “belong” and fit in… if I stopped being me. Being ME was going to isolate me from others and my journey was going to be a lot harder. But I chose to be true to myself.
I paid a lot of dues, over decades of time, to figure out who I am and I wasn’t about to do to myself what hundreds of men have done to me since first grade.
Objectively, I grasp that I have an intriguing story. I believe I am an excellent communicator. I decided to use social media as my platform in between speaking opportunities, I am the Lorax on my soap box… I speak for the children… my way.
I became a 501c3 within the first year… and started talking… I talked to a lot of people. TV, Radio, Newspaper, Business groups, Churches, Womens groups, High Schools, Colleges, Panels, Rotaries, Military and Police departments… I didn’t say no to anyone… no matter where they were located or their ability to pay. I saw every opportunity as one child saved. I would’ve paid them to speak.
From day one I said we need, educate them, give them hope, and motivate action… But how to get them made?
In sales and in my personal life, I have seen very wealthy people spend money in unimaginably good and wasteful ways. The guy with stacks of chips that were $10,000 each… on the poker table in Vegas… the luxury hand bags that go for thousands of dollars paraded down Newbury Street … the side lover with her own credit card and condo… I’ve seen human beings, both rich and poor, give their all or turn a blind eye… I really thought…. I really really thought… that as I made my way across the state of Maine talking to all walks of life… that people would hear and instinctually know that educational videos are a great way to educate and prevent abuse… that these people would fund this project joyfully. I wouldn’t have to beg anyone for anything. Human beings would just do the right thing.
Says a lot. People would rather lose hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling or risky investments or on themselves or whatever…then give a penny to or be associated with…in any way … anything child sex abuse related. Or is it just me that is seen as not worthy of investing in.
But then there is this…
National Child Advocacy Centers $6M in 2017
National Childrens Alliance $4M in 2017
Meanwhile the ASPCA showed a gross profit of $280M in 2017. Ya.
This issue doesn’t have the emotional call to action that animal abuse has.
Even St. Jude’s gross profit for 2017 was only $4M
The worst plague on humanity has now reached a pandemic level…. totally fixable…totally preventable… no medical research required… and most people don’t have an adequate understanding, the funding on the issue is disgraceful. Unacceptable.
So that was an overview of my first year… knowledge, clarity, owning my role… educator. Establish the 501c3. Make my intention known: Prevention through education. PSAs PSAs PSAs.
Stay tuned… we will make a difference, we are making a difference…
With Love, Catherine