Thursday, October 28, 2010

EA Team

Heavy-hearted for Shufen today. Our spunky gal has gone through a lot recently. But through the tougher times she has been through lately, Shufen has never once taken out her struggles and unhappiness on us as a team. She's just been the bouncy gal she always is, faithfully churning out the brightly-coloured advertisements we need for our work.

This team still continues to amaze me. Something which I saw yesterday in just the silly way in which some of us were taking Myers-Briggs tests and posting it on our FB pages, is just the way we've grown close as a team and the way we support and encourage each other.

I'm so glad that we are a stronger team as we prepare for the ascent up to West Bengal as we will need each other's strong support on our two-week journey. I'm glad that I know that I know that I KNOW, we will be there for each other.

These are the things I've seen in our beautiful team lately...

I see Angel, faithfully churning out cookies and cookie batter to earn funds for the team, even though our sweet girl is not going on the trip herself...

I see Thomas, running all over the place to collect and deliver cookies! reminding us at interim moments to support and help each other. I see him caring whether or not the youths are warm enough and finding items that we need...

I see Nick, also not going on the trip, but never failing to seek out the info that we need and to continue to contribute totally to the team - even presenting at O'Leary's! - even through his own disappointment about not going himself because of a new job...

I see Phi Fern, continue to cheer us up with her jokes and humour, and covering every detail of her work as local liaison so carefully. Phi Fern says she is haphazard :>, but I've seen such clarity and precision in her work; that shows how much she cares...

I see Sophia, bravely fighting her way through every obstacle in fund-raising, and yet never murmuring or complaining to us so we never knew how hard she has to work to produce the activity! She gives all her heart to her endeavours...

I see David, juggling three different equally important things (oops, 4, if you count CV as well!), and giving his best to each one and never giving EA second best with the great programmes he comes up with just because it is volunteer work...

I see Lin Lin, stepping up to leadership and tying every loose end together with tons of heavy work so quietly and steadily that you don't notice until it suddenly dawns on you how easy the paths have suddenly become...

I see Wendy, for whom this new endeavour can't be easy when she is new to this kind of task, staying up late past midnight to fulfil her new duties as corporate liaison...

I see Calvin, quietly getting many things done, absorbing so much and never letting on how much he does, even if no one else notices...

And I see Serene, with changes flying all over her, yet continuing to smile and encourage the team and stepping up to always be the first to get her things done (like movie advertising on FB!).

It's a strong team individually, and an amazing team together. Together, I believe we can make the difference in the lives of others that we set out to do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I trust You



God, I don't understand why so much is happening and what You're doing, but I trust You - that You are working things out to Your will, and that I will see the fulfilment of Your promises at the end.

You gave me a promise, that ALL things work for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. I'm keeping my eyes on You and my hand clasped in Yours. Lead me in Your way, and I will follow You.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Please Stop the Pain

Yesterday, a dear, sweet precious person hosted me whilst I waited for the wedding. I don't really know this girl well - we've just gotten to know each other - but over and over again, I'm amazed by how giving, how kind and generous she is. She does things that I hardly ever get to see people do - going the extra mile with sweet sincerity, not asking for anything back.

I've always been a little afraid for this gentle spirit, because I know too well that the world can be cruel and take disgusting advantage of such a beautiful soul.

We were just sitting round in her bedroom chatting, and somehow, we got to sharing. My heart really broke when this sweet, gentle soul shared about a painful time she had been through recently. My heart cried out silently, "Why you? Of all the people this could happen to, why you?"

I just had to give her a big hug, and when I let go, tears were still falling from her eyes.

God, I have met so many beautiful children of Yours... and so many have gone through great pain in their lives. It makes my heart ache to see the wounded hearts in this world. There are memories seared into people's minds that affect them today that shouldn't be there.

Precious Father, won't You please end the pain? Won't You please gather them into Your arms and wipe away the sad and bad memories? Won't You lift their feet up so that they don't always walk on thorns and stones along their journey's path?

Won't You come quickly, Jesus, so that we will reach the Day when You wipe every tear from everyone's eyes? Please Jesus, stop the pain, heal the wounded places and take us to the place where there is Joy and Love and Peace... and all the good things I know You meant us to have.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cheerful thots! :>

*lols* I just wanted to fill up something because I didn't want to leave my blog in such a depressing state!

Especially when I'm not depressed at all! >.< I had such a wonderfully relaxing Saturday, and in the afternoon, God sent a glorious, thunderous rain storm to cool the air, clear the haze so Gillian won't have asthma, and make the atmosphere peaceful and sweet!

And I got to catch up with Joanna and Jody who stayed over last night - I miss them sooooo much! Especially Joanna who stayed with me for some months after her mom passed away... gosh... Miss her lots!

Joanna and Jody are currently working in YWAM and they have shops in Penang and Kuala Lumpur which hire and help to rehabilitate drug addicts and alcoholics and street people (yeah, I know - I have so many beautiful friends who spend their lives just being a blessing to others!). It's not easy - there are so many difficulties working with ex-addicts.

It was a joy to just talk and share but we didn't have much time because they were just staying overnight and poor Joanna wasn't feeling too well :(.

And right now I'm just waiting for Sheryl's lovely cupcakes to be ready!! She is so sweet - she is baking them today instead of the night before so they'll be fresher for the wedding tomorrow.

Foremost in my thoughts this past week especially is that I am never going to make the same mistake that I did on the onset of serving in Singapore.... to get so busy that I miss out on church week after week.

ONE week is fine once in a while if we can't help it, but week after week? Oy vey! What a big huge mistake I made!

Things went totally caterwumpus without that filling in of God's presence. Without taking time out for His divine rest. Now I know why God set aside the 7th day as a day of rest IN HIM... He knows we can't function without us coming into His presence and getting refreshed and renewed.

Going on in my own strength doesn't work. It is His love that has always flowed through me to touch others; it's not my own, or I would have ko'ed a long time ago! I just don't have that much love or wisdom or anything to give.

I am so blessed to have God in my life and I never want to take Him for granted again. He truly is my everything.

What was her crime?

Just reflecting on the situation of a little girl T that I read about in a book about foster care. T came into foster care severely abused. I don’t know why the welfare system, which tracked her case for years, took so long before pulling her away from her natural environment where she was regularly subject to violence and abuse.

Little T was subject to sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her biological father and her stepfather. She came into foster care just 8 years old, but already severely 'damaged' by abuse.

What disturbed me most about her story was that, there came a point when, after observing some rather ominous acting-out behaviour on the part of little T including sexualized play, little T was removed from the foster home and put into a paediatric psychiatric care unit.

The psych unit, from the description of the foster mother, was as typical as most adult psychiatric units. The same green walls, grey floors, depressing atmosphere, and bars on the windows. In keeping with its role as a juvenile facility there were also lists of rules, and a point system complete with rewards and punishments for compliance or otherwise.

Little T stayed there for a couple of months and then was released back into the custody of the foster mother. It wasn’t long before she was caught coaxing another child to molest her (note, not the other way around) and again, she was put back into the same locked mental facility.

Strange thing is, she isn’t the only victim of sexual abuse put into a mental ward that I’ve read about. Recently I read Scarred. The mental facility that the girl featured in the book was placed into had so many juvenile victims of sexual abuse, the facility arranged group discussions exclusively for these victims.

I remember my visit to a psychiatric ward in a local hospital to visit a teenager that I knew. The ward was typical for a general hospital, and there were some patients, including this teen, who were really quite normal. They were just in there because they’d checked themselves in because they were unable to cope with outside life.

But there were also those who’d lost their reasoning abilities; who wandered around and stared blankly, and who sometimes stopped and talked to you but their speech made no sense.

I was wondering, why would you put a kid into somewhere like that just because she’s been sexually abused?

There are no separate facilities to separate a child who is reacting from a case of abuse and a child who is a sociopath, schizophrenic etc. There are no separate facilities for a juvenile victim of abuse and adults suffering from every kind of mental disorder.

The reasoning behind it, I understand, is that the child or juvenile has become a threat to others and to him/herself. The child could be like little T, indulging in sexual play, self-harming, a suicide risk etc. In the mental ward, the child/ juvenile will have access to constant supervision and more frequent and more intense hours of therapy.

But... how sad that this is the only option for treatment.

What would go through a child's mind when you remove her from a fairly safe environment as she starts to act out due to abuse and put her into a locked mental facility? Could a child reason to him/herself that he/she is there for safety and not as further punishment? When he/she has so much confusion to deal with already?

And I wonder, in the centre that I want to have someday, what will I do when a child/ juvenile reaches the stage where he/she becomes a danger to him/herself and to others? I guess there is no choice is there? I’ll have to recommend the child/juvenile be remanded for psychiatric treatment too.

What a cruel punishment for someone whose only crime was to be a victim.

Friday, October 22, 2010

EA: What do you see?

*sigh* Some things do not change, no matter which part of the world you are from.

In EA, sometimes the volunteers will talk amongst ourselves about the difficulty in 'marketing' the cause for at-risk youths. The very politest term we can use is 'at-risk', and even then, some people shun the cause because they see this as 'less worthy'.

It brings me back almost fifteen years ago when I was a student in England (gosh, am I really that old?! >.<). Ever so often, the newspapers would have a field day because at that time, a new programme had been developed. This programme sent youths who had quote unquote 'broken the law' to countries like Africa for two-week trips to experience being in a country where people are less fortunate and to see and experience the difference they could make in others' lives through community service.

Sounds familiar? Uh-huh. Totally the same as Expedition Agape.

Except, as I understand, this programme was funded by tax-payers money.

Whoa, the storm of letters (emails were not so in vogue in those Dark Ages >.<) that the newspapers would receive. "What IS this?" and "Are we rewarding bad behavior?" and "We should give MORE DERSERVING kids a chance!" and "Why are we sending these juveniles on a HOLIDAY?" are samples of the comments that were expressed in those fiery letters.

None of these letter-writers seemed to see and pick up just who these kids were. The way the writers referred to these youths were as 'juvenile delinquents' 'petty criminals' 'trouble-makers' etc.

They didn't know or want to know the juvenile's name. They didn't know what kind of family these kids had come from. They didn't want to know what struggles the youths had undergone and why they had been selected for this special program in the first place.

Fast-forward 15 years and what has changed? Different country, same program, same difficulties in being accepted.

I wonder sometimes why people don't take time out to see beyond the labels.

You know what I see when I meet up with the youths?

I see bright, active young men and women.

I see youths with the same potentials, hopes, dreams, mischiefs (:>, intelligence, talents, chances to succeed, to be a world leader and change-maker as any other youth.

I see strong guys and gals who have gone through so much more than a lot of youths and who are choosing to rise up to be a difference in this world by taking part in EA.

I see young people who have made mistakes and who are getting up and changing their lives, and I want to lend a hand and help them to carry on in life because I know what it's like to fall. Because I'm human, and I've fallen before, just as we all have, and I know that one fall, doesn't determine your destiny.

I wish that others could see, not through the eyes of judgement and hatred, but through the eyes of love.

Forgiveness - by Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom Story on Forgiving
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’

“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”

(excerpted from “I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom. Reprinted by permission from Guideposts Magazine. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts Associates, Inc., Carmel, New York 10512>).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It’s going to be a very special Christmas this year

Christmas is coming early. It’ll be somewhere between the 6th and the 20th of December, but we’re not really sure when.

This Christmas will be celebrated up in the Himalayas in an area called the Neora Valley. The children attending the Christmas gathering will be the beautiful kindergarten to primary school aged students of Kolbung Primary School.


The Santas will be youths and adult volunteers from Singapore. Our presents are not toys and candy and all the normal things children put in their Santa Wish Lists.

Instead, we’re building a 15ft. x 15 ft. extension to their little school. Kolbung Primary School is only 30ft. by 30 ft. in size, and there are 7 classes going on all at the same time inside the big bare room! The children can only listen to one teacher at a time, so when one teacher talks, all the other 6 classes must keep quiet.


With the extension, the children of Kolbung Primary School can continue their education pass Grade 5 into at least Grade 7 level. After that, they have to walk 20 km. to the nearest secondary school. This extension will give them at least another 3 years of education.


And we’ll be building a fence to protect the kids in the area where they play.... just a couple of months back, one of the students fell down the side of the cliff and had to be taken to the hospital two hours away to recover.


Santa’s sleigh will be our backpacks! The children have a tiny library consisting of one small glass cupboard. So we’ll be stuffing our backpacks full of children’s story books (including Uncle Buttons story books about Christmas!) to grow their little library.


We’ll be celebrating our Christmas by playing games with the kids, traditional games that children play in Singapore like 5 stones and hopscotch. And we’ll be painting bright colourful murals on the school extension walls to make it bright and merry.

I think this will be a very, very special Christmas.

Phone calls from home

Last Sunday, during the buddy outing, D received a phone call. I could hear his side of the phone call and it went along the lines of, "Oh, hi Mom! Yeah, eating lunch. Not yet. Ya...." etc. etc.

When he hung up, I was like, "That's your mom?" and when he nodded, I squealed, "That's so sweeeeet!"

Later I couldn't help going, "Awww.. you received a call from your MOM!" whereupon he gave me a funny look like he thought I was taking the mickey out of him.

I honestly wasn't. I was just...

Things like this, just really touch me. I think people take it so much for granted. I dunno whether it's weekends or what, but every time I go to Singapore, I can see parents with their kids just enjoying being together, talking together, and it always, always moves me.

It gives me so much joy to see together-families. And I just want to tell them, Appreciate your love ones. Keep them close to you. Know what a gift you have. Don't waste time in silly quarrels or in annoying habits that irritate you, because these things don't matter. You are very, very lucky.

But I can't tell them that.

Sometimes, people are surprised at how I take simple things that they take for granted... I just get so amazed... Things like, "You mean you have REUNION DINNER? Wow, really? With the whole family at the table?! Gosh!"

They can't get what the fuss is all about. And I can't tell them, because they'll never understand.

I'll never forget how distressed I got when a teenage friend quarrelled with his sister - he couldn't understand why I was interfering and gave a sharp remonstrance to stay out of it. He couldn't hear my heart saying, "Don't quarrel! Please don't quarrel! You have each other, and families are fragile. If you quarrel now, it might dissolve!"

He doesn't see it. He doesn't know what it's like to see a family break apart, and he cannot fathom his beautiful, strong family ever being apart.

And he can never fully understand how very fortunate he is.

If I could give the world a blessing, it would be that each person in a fairly happy family (for there are no perfect families) would come to see and appreciate each other, and love each other and stay close in that beautiful warmth that only happy families can gather. May you always be blessed in the unity that God meant for families.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hear me, O Lord

One song which we sing in my church has this for the 2nd verse...

"Hear me, O Lord
Hear me when I cry
Lord, do not hide Your face from me
You have been my strength
You have been my shield
And You will lift me up

Bridge:
One thing I ask
One thing I desire
Is to see You
I wanna see You, Lord"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why me, Lord?

Every time I am surrounded again by the beautiful, amazing love showered down on me by my friends, I ask God again that question.

Why me? Why am I so blessed? Why have You brought such beautiful people along my path who want to be friends with me and whom I can enjoy so much great friendship with?

Why have you given me friends who've stuck with me for years - some have even been friends with me since kindergarten! >.< Oh gosh! We went through everything together! Losing our first teeth, getting our first training bras, first boyfriends, first everythings!

Some share my heart. When their hearts unfold, there are glowing fiery roses in the middle full of hopes and dreams and promises and ambitions that surely must have originated from You... for how else can they be so beautiful?

I have friends who make me laugh and they're as comfy as old fleece blankets, Lord. They are the ones who I know I can always call on to go out or do something, and even though we've probably not spoken to each other since the previous year because we've been so busy, the answer is immediately 'yes' and we will spend the whole evening laughing our heads off about the silliest mundane things.

Friends who care so deeply about me - I am amazed by their love. I don't think I loved myself as much as they love me. They follow up with me when they know (sometimes they guess!) that I am sad or upset, they give little gifts to say they thought of me, they're always there when I need someone to talk to.

And a couple of dear friends who have even made me absolutely swear that if I ever am on the brink of committing suicide, I'll call them first! >.< Oh gosh! Yesterday, when everything was so black even the blue cloudless sky looked dark, I FB'd one of them. Her words were Rhema to me - "God will take you Home Himself if you are not needed here in this world." They were Your words to me, God. They were exactly what I needed to hear.

My friends often know me better than I know myself! My friends can order for me (which always makes me laugh!), they can take one look at my face and know how I'm feeling, they can listen and pull out the one strand through the tapestry that is the running thread through it so that I can see it too.

God, thank You... I don't have the words to tell You how grateful I am. Above all, thank You, for being my bestest Friend of all.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Love

God's love is just overwhelming. And best of all, it is always there.

Pan Mee!

When I went back to church for the FOT, one thing which somehow came up was, "Joel's pan mee! We've GOT to try okay!!" and before I knew it, we had organized one contingent going all the way to Taman Danau Desa to try his pan mee!

Joel coming out to greet us in front of his new restaurant.

The interior of the restaurant.

The menu... I totally couldn't resist the sound of 'tomato tom yam pan mee'!!! Mmmmmmm!!!

Christina is hiding behind her notes. *sigh* This girl misses me for a not so good reason ie. because she's always either sick or injured and I'll be mothering her! We warned her that if we ever go to Sikkim India together, we will have to keep her away from the cliff edges!

Oh gosh, I've missed being with the youths! It was so fun :>... and they really welcome seeing me back more than anyone else. All of them are precious in my heart.

Rachel, Benjamin, Daniel and Ovira.

Crispy sui kow. Joel insisted the 'air' inside was an important component. Hmmm.... =.=

This was an 'A' class first choice - tomato tom yam pan mee!

Really unique taste - pumpkin pan mee!

Mmm.... we all just HAD to have a second plate of this - creamy sauce pan mee!

After that, we had cendol and iced drinks elsewhere and then I sent Ovira, Edo, Rachel and Benjamin home. We talked... and one thing that Rachel said made me smile, "You know, we miss you for talks like this." :) It's nice to be wanted.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Amy's Victim Impact Statement

Some of the things 'Amy' in the Misty series shared are powerfully honest truths that I wish others knew and understood. So I've highlighted them here...

"I am a 19 year old girl and I am a victim of child sex abuse and child pornography. I am still discovering all the ways that the abuse and exploitation I suffer has hurt me, has set my life on the wrong course, and destroyed the normal childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood that everyone deserves.

My uncle started to abuse me when I was only 4 years old. He used what I now know are the common ways that abusers get their victims ready for abuse and keep them silent: he told me that I was special, that he loved me, and that we had our own "special secrets." Since he lived close to our house, my mother and father didn't suspect anything when I walked over there to spend time with him.

At first he showed me pornographic movies and then he started doing things to me. I remember that he put his finger in my vagina and that it hurt a lot. I remember that he tried to have sex with me and that it hurt even more. I remember telling him that it hurt. I remember that much of the time I was with him I did not have clothes on and that sometimes he made me dress up in lingerie. And I remember the pictures.

After the abuse he would take me to buy my favorite snack which was beef jerky. Even now when I eat beef jerky I get feelings of panic, guilt, and humiliation. It's like I can never get away from what happened to me.

At the time I was confused and knew it was wrong and that I didn't like it, but I also thought it was wrong for me to tell anything bad about my uncle who said he loved me and bought me things I liked. He even let me ride on his motorcycle. Now I will never ride on a motorcycle again. The memories are too upsetting.

There is a lot I don't remember, but now I can't forget because the disgusting images of what he did to me are still out there on the internet. For a long time I practiced putting the terrible memories away in my mind. Thinking about it is still really painful. Sometimes I just go into staring spells when I am caught thinking about what happened and not paying any attention to my surroundings.

Every day of my life I live in constant fear that someone will see my pictures and recognize me and that I will be humiliated all over again. It hurts me to know someone is looking at them -- at me -- when I was just a little girl being abused for the camera. I did not choose to be there, but now I am there forever in pictures that people are using to do sick things. I want it all erased. I want it all stopped. But I am powerless to stop it just like I was powerless to stop my uncle.

When they first discovered what my uncle did, I went to therapy and thought I was getting over this. I was very wrong. My full understanding of what happened to me has only gotten clearer as I have gotten older. My life and my feelings are worse now because the crime has never really stopped and will never really stop.

It is hard to describe what it feels like to know that at any moment, anywhere, someone is looking at pictures of me as a little girl being abused by my uncle and is getting some kind of sick enjoyment from it. It's like I am being abused over and over and over again.

I find myself unable to do the simple things that other teenagers handle easily. I do not have a driver's license. Every time I say I am going to do it, I don't. I can't plan well. My mind skips out on me when I think about moving forward with my life. I have been trying to get a job, but I just keep avoiding things. Forgetting is the thing I do best since I was forced as a little girl to live a double life and "forget" what was happening to me. Before I realize it, I miss interviews or other things that will help me get a job.

Sometimes things remind me of the abuse and I don't even realize it until it is too late. For example, I failed anatomy in high school. I simply could not think about the body because of what happened to me. The same thing happened in college. I went to a psychology class where we watched a video about child abuse. Without even realizing why, I just stopped going to class. I failed my freshman year of college and moved back home.

It's easy for me to block out my feelings and avoid things that make me uncomfortable. I don't know when I will be ready to go back to college because I have huge problems with avoiding anything that makes me uncomfortable or reminds me of my abuse.

I am always scared that people can look at me and tell that I am a victim of sex abuse because my abuse is a public fact. I am worried that when my friends are on the internet they are going to come across my pictures and it fills me with shame and embarrassment.

I am humiliated and ashamed that there are pictures of me doing horrible things with my uncle. Everywhere I go I feel judged. Am I the kind of person who does this? Is there something wrong with me? Is there something sickening and disgusting about who I am?

I am embarrassed to tell anyone what happened to me because I'm afraid they will judge me and blame me for it. I live in a small town and I think that if one person knows then everyone will know. I am just living in fear of the day Someone sees those awful pictures of me and then "the secret" about me will be out. It's like my life is on hold for that day and I am frozen in time waiting. I know those disgusting pictures of me are stuck in time and are there forever for everyone to see.

I had terrible nightmares for a long long time. I would wake up sweating and crying and go to my parents for comfort. Now I still get flashbacks sometimes. There are thoughts in my head that are memories of the things that my uncle did to me. My heart will start racing and I will feel sweaty and then a stronger picture will pop up in my head and I have to leave the situation I am in. I have heard the voice of my uncle in my mind still talking to me saying, "don't tell, don't tell, don't tell." 'thinking and knowing that the pictures of all this are still out there just makes it worse. It's like I can't escape from the abuse, now or ever.

Because I've had so many bad dreams, I find it hard to sleep when it's dark. I like to keep the lights on thinking that will protect me from bad dreams. I hate scary movies and sometimes have nightmares for days.

Sometimes I have unreasonable fears that prevent me from doing the normal things that other kids do. My friend once asked me to go with her and her uncle to an amusement park. I could not get it out of my head that I would be abused. In the end I just couldn't go. I kept wondering if my friend's uncle had seen my pictures. Did he know me? Did he know what I did? Is that why he invited me to the amusement park?

Trust is a very hard thing for me and often people just make me uncomfortable. I had to quit a job had as a waitress because there was a guy who I thought was always staring at me. I couldn't stop thinking, did he recognize me? Did he see my pictures somewhere? I was simply too uncomfortable to keep working there.

I have trouble saying "no" to people since I learned at a young age that I really don't have control over what's happening to me. I am trying to learn to get better at this because I know that not saying "no" makes it easier for someone to hurt me again.

Because of the way my uncle bribed me to perform sex acts on camera, I have trouble taking gifts from anyone. I always feel that people will expect something from me if they give me a present. This makes it difficult in my relationship with friends.

I want to have children someday, but it frightens me terribly to think about how I could keep them safe. Who could I possibly trust? Their teacher? Their coach? I don't know if I could ever trust anyone with my children. And what if my children and their friends see my pictures on the internet? How could I ever explain to them what happened to me?

I am very confused about what love is. My uncle said he loved me and I wanted that love. But I know now that what he did to me is not love. But how will I be able to tell in the future if it is real love or just another person trying to exploit and use me?

The truth is, I am being exploited and used every day and every night somewhere in the world by someone. How can I ever get over this when the crime that is happening to me will never end? How can I get over this when the shameful abuse I suffered is out there forever and being enjoyed by sick people?

I am horrified by the thought that other children will probably be abused because of my pictures. Will someone show my pictures to other kids, like my uncle did to me, thenm tell them what to do? Will they see me and think it's okay for them to do the same thing? Will some sick person see my picture and then get the idea to do the same thing to another little girl? These thoughts make me sad and scared.

I blame myself a lot for what happened. I know I was so little, but why didn't I know better? Why didn't I stop my uncle? Maybe if I had stopped it there wouldn't be so many pictures out there that I can never take back or erase. I feel like now I have to live with it forever and that it's all my fault.

I feel like I am unworthy of anything and a failure. What have I been good for except to be used by others over and over again. That's one of the reasons I haven't been able to get a job or stay in school. I'm tired of disappointing myself. I've already had enough disappointment for a lifetime and just don't want any more failure. To me this brings back all the terrible feelings and shame of abuse and exploitation.

Sometimes I deal with my feelings by trying to forget everything by drinking too much. I know this isn't good, but my humiliation and angry feelings are there with me all the time and sometimes I just need a way to make them go away for awhile.

I feel like I have always had to live a double life. First I had to lie about what my uncle was doing to me. Then I had to act like it didn't, happen because it was too embarrassing. Now I always know that there is another "little me" being seen on the internet by other abusers. I don't want to be there, but I am. I wish I could go back in time and stop my uncle from taking those pictures, but I can't.

Even though I am scared that I will be abused or hurt again because I am making this victim impact statement, I want the court and judge to know about me and what I have suffered and what my life is like. What happened to me hasn't gone away. It will never go away. I am a real victim of child pornography and it effects me every day and everywhere I go.

Please think about me and think about my life when you sentence this person to prison. Why should this person, who is continuing my abuse, be free when I am not free?"

When I read her statement, I wished I could hold her hand, and tell her she is not alone. And I wish I could show her that there is a better tomorrow - it feels like the nightmares and flashbacks will never end - but they get less over time. Just keep walking on the journey to healing.

Selling Yourself


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/us/03offender.html

This girl came back to my mind on Sunday - I don't know why. Her story was drifting in and out of my thoughts over the weekend.

'Amy'(her codename) was used periodically throughout her childhood for pornography. I remember that Lisa Ling mentioned she had seen one of the videos during her newstory for Nightline about Internet pornography and, in her own words, 'It scarred me for life'.

On the one hand, I am proud of her for turning her victimization into a stance of power. She is claiming $3.4million in damages from every single person who possesses pictures and videos of her being raped.

On the other hand, I am concerned that she is using the videos to 'earn' money, in a sense. Whilst it is powerful for her to claim the appropriate recompense from those who exploited her and kept the exploitation going, I wonder what is she learning from this?

I guess my concern stems from - well, when you've been 'touched', somehow, over time, as you get 'used' to being touched, there are, I think, moments when you use the touching for something.

It isn't necessarily something as overt as money or favours eg. clothes or a new car. It can simply be love and affection, being held close after the 'touching' is over (for a moment, anyway, till it begins again)... and for that, you're willing to put up with being 'touched' because you're so used to it, you can 'take it'.

Sad, isn't it? I guess this is why child predators know which children to prey on - the little, sad, rebellious, angry ones who have no one to turn to are so much easier to 'use'.

So I wonder why Amy is doing this, and what is she learning from this? Will it push her, later on, to sell her body for sex? After all, her body has already been 'used' and it doesn't feel like anything to be used again.

Will she find that this is a good money-earner and start selling others? Amazingly, almost half of human traffickers are women!

I pray there will be deep healing in her life so that she can put this all behind her and move on to powerfully help other young women and men caught in the aftermath of the same trauma and pain she went through.

For that, is truly the position of strength.