I Can’t Keep Quiet

A Cambodian Girl (source)

put on your face
know your place
shut up and smile

Have you read Half the Sky? It’s written by award winning journalists who had to tell the stories their publishers weren’t interested in running. Stories about the plight of women across the globe. Stories that were not ‘news’ despite women being roughly half of all the people living on this planet.  The stories highlighted to me how very far we are from the things fair-minded citizens have fought for ….forever.  From the beginning of time.  The book put me in mind of another author’s work, Xinran; The Good Women of China.

And here we are, thousands of years into human existence; fighting for simple human kindness. An agreed creed against injustice. Fighting even for awareness that these things remain to be fought for. Fighting to show the younger generations that these issues are not new. Trying to convince our young ones that each generational wave can build upon the work of generations previously. Are more people all over the world making a noise, speaking out? Is it wishful thinking? Traction is hard fought won.  In Science, we have been able to build on the discoveries of others, stand, as Einstein put it  ‘on the shoulders of giants’.  Perhaps not with regards to climate change, but still. Yet in matters of equity, true cultural advancement; can we, are we even brave enough to carry on the work of people before us?

I don’t know exactly at what point the fight for interhuman respect became a fight between genders, but it did. It might have been when those invading armies destroyed an entire extraordinary culture in Ancient Sumer and with it, the first documented rights of women.  It might have been when the industrial revolution and rise of capitalism rendered mothering a non-valuable industry. It might have been the first rape. Or the billionth. At some point, the marginalised, the vulnerable, the consistently downtrodden of the world noticed that most often, the oppressor was male.  Stronger, shrewder perhaps, more aggressive. Force triumphing over Fair.

Stop whining, say the modern day alpha males. Stop whining and accept it. It’s just the way of life, the law of the jungle, the status quo  -and what about our rights not to have to listen to you whine? So, life’s not fair, swallow it and shut up.

But I can’t keep quiet.

Lately, the burning in my brain about women’s issues has been tearing me up inside. I’ve been shutting up, being a good girl. Not making waves. I’ve been doing that for so long it is making me crazy. Then just the other day, my beautiful friend Chloe who is volunteering in Cambodia, shared a story that broke me. She wrote about a little twelve year old girl from their school who has been abducted for the sex slave trade in Thailand. She thought she was going to be taken to see her Mum. I think of my own twelve year old and my guts twist.

I know that little girl and her even younger sister have been taken to the brothels, because her abduction is the classic m.o of the organised criminals who run these rackets. It has long been documented discussed and dissected by Not For Profit organisations working in the region. Ignored by governments, the media and by people like us, comfortable in our busy workaday lives.

Those little girls don’t have parents who can shout. They don’t have countrymen who can take time away from the graft of survival to search for them.  Even if they did, they’d probably end up killed. It’s a one way ticket into the brothels of Thailand. Children are briefly valuable commodities in the sex trade of Thailand; sought by wealthy foreign men taking their criminal sexual preferences to a more permissive political climate. And when those girls are no longer children they become grist for the sex trade mill. And it is not just Thailand. Brothels, even here in New Zealand profit from sex slavery. Each person held captive, ‘just another’ nameless woman, no freedom, no voice.

No one knows me, no one ever will
if I don’t say something, if I just lie still

I saw my friend’s post about those little girls on a day that was full of my own personal challenges. And then I saw a facebook post from Milck, the artist who wrote the stirring anthem sung at many of the women’s marches around the world recently.  In Goteburg, women gathered to sing her song in public as the snow fell. It’s a beautiful clip. It made me cry.

I’ve been a blithering mess lately, crying at everything. Feeling the weight of the world’s injustices as if every one is my own. So I decided to take my sensitive and sore soul off Facebook. It hasn’t stopped me feeling upset. It’s not revolutionary, nor a political statement. It’s not helpful to anyone out there struggling.  My sensitivities are only useful if I do something with them. I just mention it here to explain it to you if you’ve been looking for me out there.  I’m here. And I can’t keep quiet.

Below I have listed a couple of organisations I trust, if you too feel galvanised by your inner distress to do something.  Join me. I’m not on Facebook right now, but I am still here. Fighting the stupidity of humans hurting humans by using my voice. Fighting by sending money and goods to the organisations who can help. Fighting by raising my kids to be aware, kind humans. Fighting for myself, by regaining the emotional energy I need to continue the fight.

A one woman riot,

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone
Anymore.

All lyrics in bold italics are by Milck. You can see her song here:

Organisations:

SHAKTI:

Shakti has four ethnic women’s refuges in New Zealand. You can donate using the details below, or credit card donations are possible through their website. Donations go towards ensuring safety to vulnerable women and children. Items needed include beds, bed linen, duvets, kitchen ware, groceries, sanitary products, toiletries, etc.

Direct Deposit: Shakti Community Council Inc (Donations)
ANZ Branch, Mt Roskill Branch
Account Number: 01-0183-0243434-03

AUCKLAND WOMEN’S CENTRE

Helps over 3,000 women a year by offering:

  • crisis intervention to women with complex needs
  • support, information, advice and referral for emergency housing, women’s refuge, rape counselling, child abuse reporting, abortion, parenting
  • links to AWC’s low cost community education programme and counselling
  • referral to the right service based on particular needs

UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT FUND FOR WOMEN

Keep abreast of global issues for women.

HOUSE OF HAGAR, Cambodia
Chloe tells me this is absolutely the organisation making a difference for victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia. Immediately after the girls were taken, Chloe got in touch with them and House of Hagar are working with contacts to try to extract the girls and return them home.

HAMLIN FISTULA HOSPITAL, Ethiopia
The kids at our school knit peggy squares for these exceptionally brave women. I urge you to read more about them and their plight and consider donating or helping them in any way you can.

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.

don't forget about us

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.

_________________________________________________________

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.