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- Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
- Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
- Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
I can still see her black and blue face and the small baby in her arms clutching her ratty sweater. She was standing outside the Coordinated Response Center in Zambia. I was visiting her small village with World Vision. I was in Zambia learning about their programs that empower women.
The center is run in partnership with World Vision and other government and local organizations. This small building, and the people and resources it provides for the community is needed because, as it was explained, in Zambia violence against women is acceptable. As one of the women explained, “If your husband does not beat you people wonder if he loves you.”
In Zambia and other parts of the world, when women are raped – and if they go to the police station to report the crime, women are often mocked and raped by the very men she went to for assistance. The response center is a safe place for women to not only get help but to courageously confront what happened to them and fight for a different culture in Zambia.
I will never forget this young mother’s face. She was standing near the entrance to the center. Actually, she wasn’t really standing at all. She was cowering. It was unmistakable that my presence was violent to her. Walking past her shame, into the building — a foreigner, a stranger, no words exchanged – just our eyes catching and her burning look of shame and humiliation. And rage.
As a mother of three young children, I have spent over a decade educating myself about the reality and affects of poverty, disease, oppression and violence against women in developing countries. I have woken up to what life is like for my counterparts in the world.
Enter Ohio. The state next to me. Enter the news media coverage of this disgusting and abusive crime. I watch sad and enraged. I listen to the father of one of the sons defend saying there was “reasonable doubt.” But we all know. The judge reasonably listened, considered evidence, and ruled accordingly. We know this happens everyday. All over the world. Women are abused, mocked, used, attacked, and betrayed. By people they know. And their friends forsake them. Mock them. Threaten them. The victim is put on trial and demanded to carry the shame. This unique evil is the global dynamic of rape.
So why this story? Why has Ohio caught our collective news media imagination? Because of the ages of the children? The social media component of videos and texts? Why are we collectively worked up about this specific incident? Don’t get me wrong. We should be as it hits close to home.
But let’s be honest, we should be vocal and enraged, compassionate and lit up about every case of rape in the world. As Christians, as world leaders, as politicians, as ordinary citizens we turn away from this issue because we don’t want to deal with it. We feel powerless and give in to fear and apathy. We let the unthinkable happen day after day to innocent victims– from domestic violence to the child sex trafficking booming business.
Stuebenville reminds us this could be our children, our town, our families. It shouts from every news outlet the blaring and courageous truth that when it comes to rape we must always come down on the right side of compassion and justice.
At least, that is my prayer.
*Statistics via UN Entity for Gender Equality
I am thrilled to have REFUSE TO DO NOTHING as a featured book for this month’s Patheos Book Club.
Join us February 19th as we discuss the book together and learn how we all can fight slavery right from where we are.
By guest blogger, my co author, Kimberly McOwen Yim.
Originally posted at FullFill
“…there are more people enslaved today than there were during the entire trans-Atlantic African slave trade that ran from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The widely accepted estimate of number of slaves in the world today is 27 million people. 80% are women and children.”
It’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Will you refuse to do nothing?
Continue reading an excerpt here.
Learn 6 things you can do now to fight slavery here.
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”–William Wilberforce
It is a dark, dreary day here today and in America. It reminds me of a day almost three years ago. I wrote this poem then while a hospital chaplain intern. A sweet baby had died a tragic and sad death. Convinced more than ever God sees all and cries with us.
Today The Great I Am is crying.
Everywhere I see He weeps.
Salty tears drip down my window and soak my hair.
She rocks in her chair.
Clutching the black beaded scarf covering her head.
Soft repetitious mutters.
Unmistakable body language of calamity befallen.
Deep-as-the-Universe restrained expressions of grief.
One paces. One hugs. She vacantly shakes her head in disbelief.
They freeze in prayer. Tired, terrified eyes.
There is no relief for this.
An ice pack for her head. Shared anguish for her soul.
The nurse must triage in room 8 and will be with us.
We wait for the impossible-to-know known.
She. Must. See. Him.
An unthinkable reunion.
The room is too small for all this anguish.
I stare at the clock so emotions do not overtake.
She mutters her prayers as I mutter mine.
Two coroners, a chaplain, a father and mother.
Christ have mercy.
Today The Great I Am is crying.
The grey sad sky pays homage to a mother’s darkest.
Creation must recognize the loss.
The rain, it drips down my window.
For those of us who attempt to write books and communicate off the social networks pages, often the value of our audience is counted by numbers of books sold only. It is a rewarding and rare day when an author gets a glimpse into other ways of being valued as a published author.
My next book, coming out in February, is entitled Refuse To Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern Day Slavery. It is book I wrote with my good friend about how our hearts were broken as we woke up to the reality that slavery has not been abolished in our world — rather it is thriving. As mothers it is simply unthinkable to us that most of those in bondage today are women and children. We decided not to do nothing and we wrote a book. Yet the thought lingers, can two ordinary moms really make a difference?
One of my favorite quotes I often revisit is Henri Nouwen’s reflection of “that which is most personal is most universal.” It is a sweet and humble moment when readers remind you that this is indeed true. Below is a kind note I received the other day regarding my first book, Global Soccer Mom: Changing The World is Easier Than You Think. It was a timely reminder of the value of writers and readers.
Shayne,I’d like to say thank you for writing your book and to share how it has inspired me to action. In the past I was involved with World Vision as a Child Ambassador, but needed to stop when I took on another large ministry opportunity. That has ended, and I’ve been restless, but felt so limited with a 4 and 2 year old and some health hindrances. In the last few weeks God has been once again stirring my heart with a passion for those steeped in poverty and injustice, especially for women and girls, but I didn’t know how to act. It did, however, feel useless to FEEL passion and fail to act. Then I picked up your book. The inspiration of your story convinced me that I can indeed take steps to make a difference, to do something right where I am in this stage of life. That may very well be the start of a local chapter of WOV, especially considering my past involvement with World vision. Thank you for being willing to follow God’s prompting in every step of your journey. And thank you also for sharing so honestly in your book–I related to your frustrated “How could you let this happen, God?” comments and your discussion of finding yourself in no-mans-land. You candor was refreshing.Keep on using your voice and heart to make a difference, Shayne!Blessings,Jamie Smucker
Who Inspires You?
I have a friend who heard a story. It broke her heart and it filled the quiet spaces in her mind. It was sad story, even disturbing. In her busy life of mothering two children, running a home, having a part-time job and being a wife, sister and daughter, Kimberly stayed with the story. She did not push it away or ignore it.
In her sunny life in southern California, a dark cloud began following her around. Kimberly had just woken up to the reality of modern-day slavery — the reality that there are more than 27 million people in slavery today and the majority of them are women and children. There are more slaves today than ever before in the history of the world. Untold numbers are young girls being used in the sex trafficking business — a business in which criminals make billions of dollars per year.
My friend did not hear this traumatic reality and dismiss it as “too overwhelming.” One day, while driving in the car listening to her young daughter sincerely explain that slavery had ended with Abraham Lincoln, Kimberly’s heart burned for women and girls everywhere. Her daughter’s innocence and her own newly shattered ignorance awoke a sleeping lioness hungry for justice.
Kimberly became an abolitionist. She began blogging for the first time on her blog, Abolitionist Mama, and she started talking about all she was learning about the reality of extreme poverty — that 1.4 billion people live on less than $1 a day. Conditions of poverty create the breeding grounds for trickery, as parents sell their children to pay off a loan in the misguided hope of a better life. All this feeds the beast of human trafficking.
In fact, Kimberly would not shut up about it. She gathered her girlfriends, who have become the San Clemente Abolitionists. These passionate women put on events in their community to raise awareness. Among many other activities, they present screenings of documentaries where they invite community leaders, and they host fair trade coffee and chocolate events at a local wine and cheese shop.
Kimberly’s stubborn refusal to be overwhelmed or paralyzed by a massive global problem inspired her friends and her town. She inspires me, because quite frankly, the issue of extreme poverty and what it can do to a family and to an individual is unpleasant to think about. The fact that women all over the world risk becoming a victim of sex slavery by believing someone who claims they have a good job for them in a far away city is unthinkable. The fact that most women know the risk and yet still believe because it is their best option is something very difficult for ordinary American women to understand and accept. Yet it is the reality of more than 27 million people today.
Kimberly inspires me because as a self-described Abolitionist Mama, she is not only educating her town; she is also educating her children. Her daughter now understands that slavery did not end with Abraham Lincoln. Even though she is still in grade school, her daughter also understands the importance of knowing where our products come from and how they were harvested or made. Kimberly has inspired me to do the same with my children.
We all have our spheres of influence and Kimberly, the Abolitionist Mama, proves that together we make a difference.
It was 2005 and my first visit to Africa. The world was slowly beginning its painful wake up to the reality of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. I was visiting a rural hospital in Kenya not as a doctor or as a health care worker, not as a lawmaker or as a politician. I was visiting Kenya with my church. It was my heart that drew me to this issue and to the families it destroys.
I will never forget the mom or her son. We stood in mud, under a tin-roofed shelter, a storm surrounding us with pounding rain. Her son was maybe five years old. He reminded me of my own son about the same age. He was wide-eyed, seemed afraid, and he was not healthy. He pushed deeper and deeper into the folds of his mother’s skirt the more I smiled at him.
I watched as the nurse handed the mother her first prescription for her life-saving medication. As she and her son stood in line at the makeshift pharmacy the nurse informed me the ARV’s (antiretroviral medication) had just recently become available in Kenya due to PEPFAR. This mom now had a chance to live — and raise her small son. I was pleased yet I wondered if her son was HIV-positive and whether he had been tested and if there was medication available for him.
This first-hand experience of PEPFAR’s effectiveness was satisfying. I knew about PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) because I lobbied for this legislation. I joined the ONE Campaign in 2003. Through ONE I was invited to call Congress and the White House to urge passage of this historic piece of legislation.
Before urging my government to pass PEPFAR I had never lobbied my elected leaders about anything. Lobbying seemed the thing of special-interest groups, not the job of soccer moms. I made a simple phone call from my kitchen. How amazing that while standing in a clinic with the rain falling in sheets outside that I was experiencing the full circle of my advocacy efforts!
Last summer I was able to once again travel to Kenya. This time with a group of ONE Moms; women who blog, write and speak about motherhood and the need for American moms to speak for other moms who live under some of the most dire circumstances, many of them on less than $1.25 a day.
We visited another hospital and I was honored to talk with a mother named Grace. I want to tell you about Grace because she epitomizes the story of HIV/AIDS in Africa and the progress we have made in half a decade.
Grace had a fat baby girl on her lap the whole time we talked. Her baby is named Gift because Grace is thankful for the gift of a healthy child. You see, Gift is Grace’s fourth baby. Grace is married and had two babies in the late nineties. The first baby, Faith, lived until she was 6 months old. The second child, Gloria, lived to a year and half. Grace and her husband did not know what was taking the lives of their children.
Finally, Grace’s husband got very sick. Education was increasing and stigma was decreasing around HIV and AIDS so they decided he would get tested. He was HIV-positive. Grace was tested soon after and she was also HIV positive. She was pregnant with their third child.
But much had changed in the few years since the birth of her previous children. Due to education and awareness Grace knew what to do and where to go. She got on medication and every day she took the two small life-saving pills that prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Victoria (Victory!) was born HIV-free. And that fat baby girl giggling on Grace’s lap during our visit named Gift — she is also HIV-free. Victoria and Gift are living proof that education, awareness, resources and the will of everyday people who work to change unacceptable and preventable situations make a difference.
I’m only one mom who lives in the Midwest and I live a pretty ordinary American life. Yet I can join my heart and voice with mothers and families everywhere who long to make a difference. We have the technology, the medicine, and the resources to have a generation born HIV-free — we can work together to see the beginning of the end of AIDS by 2015.
As my friend from Zambia and fellow activist Princess Zulu says, we can work until “every mother’s dream or prayer is answered, that her child or children can be born and live HIV-free, a world where children can be children again, play, laugh, and cry, yet still know they are safe because mum and dad will be there and not be dead. As the Zambian Bemba proverbs says, ‘Imitiikulaimpanga.’ Meaning, the trees that grow become the forest. Our world relies on how well and healthy our children are.”
*This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post on Janauary 27, 2012