Missing Persons

This is not my usual kind of topic.  But I felt compelled to write about it.  I hope you will read it, it matters.

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Missing Persons
When we first got satellite TV, I spent a disturbing night, up until late, watching a documentary on the Crime channel.  It caught my interest because I recognised the picture they flashed up of a girl I had seen on the news some weeks earlier.  I was deeply distressed when I watched the news report about her imprisonment in a room of the basement in her childhood home.  Nobody knew she was there apart from her kidnapper. It had disturbed me greatly.  So when I saw her face, my thumb paused on the button of the remote.

And I paused, too; I watched.  I sat, transfixed with horror as all the awful facts of her incarceration were laid out.  Then, other cases.  Another German girl.  Then, two more girls, held captive for years in a dugout in Russia.  And Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped and held in plain sight. The stories horrified me; the victims astounded me.  Such inner strength, such survival, against odds that must have seemed hopeless.

And it struck me as I watched, that this kind of documentary, this kind of channel, dedicated to the crimes people have committed… surely we should be concerned about this?  There it is, all laid out for the sociopaths and psychopaths of the world. All the information they could ever need?  A how-to-guide for abduction, kidnap, subjugation and torture.  A twenty-four-seven feast of human horrors.  And not just this kind of crime.  Every kind of crime. The TV is full of it.  Whodunnits, forensic science and murder shows, action thrillers, bounty hunters, drug lords, pimps and con-men. Why do we have these channels? I ask myself, why do I watch, when I do? I am so disturbed I have nightmares, but still, there are times when I watch.  It really concerns me.

Some of the people who watch, regularly feed their brains on this diet of destruction. If they are people with violent thoughts and desires, it must be like an endless drug supply of their favourite hit.  Until the 2D images are not enough.  Then what?  Why do we keep supplying this drug?

Then, just recently, another documentary flicked across my screen as I was scrolling.  This one about the three girls in Cleveland, held captive, tortured and all but destroyed, for ten years by Ariel Castro.  I watched the policemen talk about the case.  I heard the neighbours, exclaiming in disbelief. I saw footage of family candlelight vigils, the broken faces of mothers and fathers whose children were lost.  It honestly made me want to look away.  It’s hard to absorb the pain of that loss in the face of another mother. It is an unthinkable torture they endure, too.

Why do human beings do these things to each other?  Why are some people so hideously broken that they must break others?  Can the cycle ever end? Will no one stand up and call for less of this violent education on our screens, in our living rooms, one click of the remote away?  What happens to all those unsupervised, under-parented kids who watch this stuff? And what about the computer games, so hyper real your brain is tricked into responses similar to real life.  Environments where car theft, rape and criminal activity are the mainstays of the game? I don’t understand where it is all going, I don’t want to.   But it worries me sick.  Does it worry you?

I have read a couple of the books written by survivors of human slavery. Tonight I finished the second. Their stories are terrifying, heart wrenching, and also inspiring.  But I was struck by the similarity in both Jaycee Dugard and Michelle Knight’s stories.  For both of the perpetrators, a diet of extreme porn and crime channel television were significant interests.  Are we paying attention to these things?  Do we care?  Do we dare to say; not here?  As mothers, wives, women and ultimately, the nurturers of all the babies that enter this world, when do we say ‘enough of these images, these ideas, this sickness’?

Our missing persons numbers continue to grow.  From tiny little ones, childen, adolescents, young people.  Countless souls, unaccounted for.  How many are trapped and needing our vigilance.  Have you ever googled ‘missing persons’ in Google images?  It is overwhelmingly distressing. Do you know your neighbours?  Do you listen for disturbing sounds?  Do you ever call the police?  Do you share and circulate the pictures of missing people on Social Media, or do you look away?  Click away?  Try to pretend it isn’t happening?

I saw this little guy again on my newsfeed the other day: he’s still missing.  And I am ashamed to say that I clicked away.  After staying up tonight to finish reading Michelle Knight’s book about her kidnap ordeal, I resolved to stay up a little longer and write this. And to post his face here. He is only one of so many.  Let’s not look away from their faces anymore.

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Want more information about missing persons?

Go to the NZ Police Missing Persons facebook page.  Receive notifications and spread the word.  You can find it here.

Are you in Australia?  Here is the Australian Federal Police missing persons page

The International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) is a global movement to promote the safety and well-being of children.

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and finally, some words from Michelle Knight herself.
“for now, the only kind of sense I can make out of everything that has happened is this: we all go through hard things.  We might wish we didn’t, but we do.  Even if I don’t understand my pain, I have got to turn it into some kind of purpose”

And she is.  Michelle is putting her life back together and helping other people and children who have been victimised.  Her story is horrific, but her attitude blows my mind. What an amazing survivor she is.

My heart goes out to all those still missing persons and their families.  May they all get the chance to be free again, just like Michelle.  And may we remember not to forget them as we go about our daily lives.

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These books are difficult reads. They make you want to look away. Reading them will make you stop, to cry. To catch your breath.  To shake in your boots. You may have nightmares or lose sleep.  They are terrifying tales and emotionally raw, real stories.  I certainly didn’t enjoy reading them, but I am glad that buying them will contribute to the income of these girls. And I hope that their stories will help us to do something about the welfare of our vulnerable, disenfranchised young women and children in society.

Warning: This post may not be your cup of tea.

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/VintageHeavenAtNo7
SOURCE: https://www.facebook.com/VintageHeavenAtNo7 (used with permission)

This post uses accurate words to describe body parts.  If you don’t wish to read about the private parts of a woman’s body, please look away, click on over to somewhere else. I fully understand.  Not everyone feels like it is a topic for discussing in a public forum. I do, because I care about women, about the alarming increase in real-body-loathing. And I am a mum of a girl, so I care about what is happening to our perception of women in all facets of the media.

I’m writing about bodies. Girl bodies. Women bodies. They are strange things.  There are wobbly bits and wrinkly bits and saggy baggy hairy bits. We all have little oddities about our bodies that make us uncomfortable.  Aspects we wish we could improve, or align with our idea of ‘normal’.  The idea of what is ‘normal’ starts when we are very small.  Maybe our Mum’s are a bit paranoid about some aspect of their appearance.  They survey themselves in the mirror.
Just as you exclaim, breathily “you’re so beautiful…!” she says
“I look AWFUL!  Look at my big bum/ tummy/ long neck/ stumpy legs”.  She is frowning at what she sees in the mirror. And you realise then that any, all of those things must be bad, not normal, sub-optimal.

You get to school and there are ‘right’ ways to do your hair, scrunch your socks and even ways to walk and stand.  You know that these are the ways to look because that’s how the coolest girl looks. Everyone likes her so much, so you try to look like her.  Then one day someone passes you that teen girl magazine.  The faces are all so beautiful.  Their skin is so dewy and pore free.  There are no pimples. Their clothes look brand new, there is no dust on their shoes. Their teeth are white and their eyelashes inhumanly long. Like their legs and arms.  They don’t grow any body hair. You sigh with a feeling of admiration and despair. Somehow, the bar has been raised even higher and you don’t know if you can reach that kind of perfection. But you know you want to.

Then you are at University. It’s a time of discovery. Relationships.  You discover all the ways your body works to deliver an adult kind of fun.  There is an awkwardness to your first naked encounter. Your partner is kind and lovely, but clueless. He surveys your nudity and notices the things that make you different. By now, being different is something that you know is bad.  Like big bums, hormonal skin, body hair, and cellulite. But he’s talking about a part of you that can’t be changed by diet, or makeup, or waxing or careful clothing choice. Your most private parts are different.  You sink far into yourself, deeply ashamed. You are different.

You visit some friends in their flat.  They’re so cool. She’s so happy with herself, so confident, that she is even fine with her boyfriend having a stash of porn on the coffee table.  You wish you felt that confident. You pick up one of the mags. The title is the plural of the ‘c’ word. It’s like a catalog of close-up vaginas. You are shocked, but incredibly curious, because you know you are different down there.  You’ve been told that. And here are hundreds of vaginas to look at, you flick open the cover…

What is normal?

Most women don’t know. We don’t sit around and compare our privates. If you are part of my generation you probably never saw your Mum naked.  The diagrams on tampon boxes aren’t even helpful, a few discreet lines to indicate the (ahem) possibility of labia. The only graphic images we see, if at all, will be courtesy of porn.  Deliberately or inadvertently, the vaginas we, and our partners, will compare our private parts to have been aesthetically modified for the porn market. That horrifies me. Some vaginas do look like that, but they are not the only way a vagina is.

For a start.  They are bald.  I have had the privilege of seeing some vintage seventies porn. Those vaginas are not bald, or even trimmed. The males are not viagara’d, but that is another issue.  It seems that we have come a long way in our media portrayal of sex itself. Modern day vagina images are also photoshopped, trimmed, ‘tidied’ and tucked away.  The labia are absent, the clitoris has been allowed to remain. But how far away are we from the thinking that drives genital mutilation in other cultures? And women everywhere are driven to emulate these unrealistic vaginas. Labia removal; ‘designer vagina’ surgery is on the increase. Self mutilation. Is this because we ourselves want bald beavers; baby bits?  Are we not alarmed at all, that soft-porn vagina images look like little girls vaginas? Aren’t we allowing the media to teach men that ‘little girl vaginas’ are sexy? Aren’t your internal sirens blaring? Are we not connecting it in any way to pedophilia, easier not to think about that, right? We must think that the child vagina aesthetic is reasonable. Because many of us do go under the knife. Surgery is incredibly painful. Depilation is also painful, let’s not diminish that! A torturous maintenance chore. Would men commit so many dollars, forbearance and hours to taming their tackle? Would they surgically change their scrotums? I doubt it. We might think we want to be ‘normal’, but what constitutes normal needs to be based on reality, surely. Who is going to stand up in defence of the real vagina if not us?  Women.

For most of my adult life I have suffered under the burden of my imperfections.  If I hadn’t got sick, I’d probably still be worrying and wondering about how I could change the way my body is.  I’m not the only woman who has been obsessed with this issue. ‘If I could only fix this…’ sound familiar?

Getting sick has given me a different perspective.  Given, literally, because it is a gift to see it differently. A relief to put the ‘expectation’ of society into an accurate context. Whatever ‘normal’ is for society, it is no longer ‘normal’ for the human body. We have to stop the stupidity.  Cosmetic surgery for non medical reasons is dangerous and un-necessary. The ‘bits’ we need to fix are in our minds. If our bodies work we are fortunate beyond measure.  If we are healthy we are gifted with opportunities to use our bodies with joy.  We should celebrate every fabulous wobbly and weird bit of them.  Bodies are beautiful. Just the way they are.

I want a future for my daughter where her beautiful body is a comfort and a joy to her, just as it is. In all it’s human reality. Where she can stand naked in front of a mirror and breathily say
 “you’re so beautiful” to her own reflection.  Because she is.

The following documentary excerpt was sent to me by a friend. It is why I wrote this piece.  It is GRAPHIC, so if you are squeamish or uncomfortable about surgery, genitalia or discussing vaginas, please don’t press play. If, like me, you are concerned about the state of thinking in women that leads to body loathing, please watch.  I’d love to know your thoughts on the issue.

 

LABIAPLASTY: Hungry Beast, ABC1 from Ali Russell on Vimeo.