We have forgotten that we belong to each other – Mother Teresa
Recently, I was leading a craft for a group of kindergarteners to make cards for their fathers for fathers day. As I began to explain this, one little girls eyes began to well with tears ( the way mine do). Even though I told her that she could make the card for her mom or anyone she liked, nothing could comfort the wound in her heart. The wound that is created from knowing that we are not like the other kids, knowing that we don’t have a father, and many other things is deep even at 5.
A few quick facts: (about fatherlessness)
*63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – 5 times the average.
*90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes -32 times the average
*85% of all children who show behavior disorders are from fatherless homes -20 times the average
*71% of all high school dropouts are from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.
Many times additionally a father can be your source of pain, abuse, suffering or even trafficking.
I pray for the kids in my neighborhood, the kids I come across during the day, the kids in my city. However, I know there are many of us that have deep wounding because of our the past, because of our father or lack of father.
I celebrate those of you who are good men, good fathers, who are full of integrity and love; who desire the best and would never intentionally harm.
Let me take a step back and be a bit honest for all of us who these days are painful for.
I speak about the realities of human trafficking and specifically the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in these posts.
Here are a few real truths: 80-90% of survivors of exploitation have previously experienced sexual abuse as a child. Often as a child this abuse occurred at the hands of someone she or he knew and frequently it was someone that was related to them (parent, grandparent, cousin or uncle) or closely connected such as a neighbor, coach or teacher. Furthermore, if the child was brave enough to tell a trusted adult she or he was either not believed or not listened too. So often the abuse was allowed to continue and for many of us it prepared us for the exploitation that would happen soon after. For me and many others, the trafficker was my father; yes, familial trafficking happens in the United States.
This makes ‘Father’s Day’ incredibly difficult as we are celebrating how wonderful fathers are and in many cases they are the cause of the pain, abuse and even exploitation.
For survivors who have survived child sex trafficking and sexual abuse the studies show that the levels of Post Traumatic Stress are at the same levels of combat veterans. This trauma is not something that we can just “get over”. I do believe that God can and does heal and longs for us to be whole. I recently spoke with someone and was trying to explain these issues and explained that it is complicated and multifaceted. It does take a community and many people who will show the survivor love, acceptance, value and care.
So what can you do? Here are a few tips…
Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, things are not going to get better, they’re not!- Dr. Seuss
1) You can’t change someone’s past or your own for that matter. However, things can be different starting today or the next time you talk to them. Be present with someone, celebrate them, include them, sit with them. Hug them, weep with them, be silent together. Take a long drive. Do something special with someone who has never had the opportunity for a day like that. Imagine you have the opportunity to change the course of someone’s day – just in being there. –
2) Include someone in what your family is doing, especially if that person does not have a family or has a difficult past. In this way you are rewriting their story, things do not need to be like they have always been. The Kingdom of God is like this, it takes the most unlikely, the outcast, the marginalized and God calls them and says you, yes you – I want to be with you. This sounds great and we cheer but in real life when it invades our personal space, when the person is hard to love will we invite them along to our day?
3) For those of us who have had painful experiences with a father – I understand. I think these are the days its ok to take a deep breath, to let yourself exhale for all the days you couldn’t. I know it is hard to see God as a Father – I don’t think there are any magic answers – it does hurt and for some of us they legitimately did cause a lot of pain including exploitation and trafficking. We wouldn’t celebrate our pimps would we – I looked there are no cards to that effect at the store (its a joke). So do something for you, buy yourself some nail polish, go for a walk on the beach, watch a movie, get an ice cream cone, whatever would be helpful.
4) Finally, if you are dad, please be a good one. Invest in your kids, your community and those around. We sure need some good men of integrity. And please, pray for us –