Day one of the academy was like a punch in the gut. I arrived late (driving in the city is not my greatest talent), but still cheerful, friendly, and excited to be there. By the end of the day, particularly after hearing a survivor talk about the slavery and sexual exploitation that she endured only fifteen minutes away from where I grew up, my excitement was gone. I was just staring at my desk, crossing my arms sullenly, and not speaking at all. I was listening, though – to every word. I had forgotten why I care so much about this cause. I had forgotten how awful it all is. Driving home, I tried to snap out of my depressed stupor by turning up the radio and singing along to the upbeat tunes. My efforts were all a waste, though, when I drove by highway 1, where the survivor we heard from had often been left to meet a client. Suddenly, the image of a teenage girl waiting there among the speeding cars to be picked up and then raped by a man she didn’t know filled my mind. I cried. That’s pretty much how the whole first half of the week was for me. At the academy, I heard statistics and stories that broke my heart. Then, at home, as I read my way through David Batstone’s book, Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It, I frequently had to shut it and walk away before the injustices it described overwhelmed me. The emotional weight of the things I was hearing translated themselves into irritability and moodiness. I was hurting. Talking to the other fellows over lunch, I discovered that they had had moody moments that week, too. I think it was getting to all of us. My suspicions were confirmed on the third day when, after reading some particularly stomach-turning reviews of local brothels posted by johns (one read: “My hooker showed up passed out. I’ve never had so much fun and freedom with a woman.”), more than one person commented on how much they wanted a strong drink. At that point, the speaker, a man involved in law enforcement who had been working against human trafficking for years, paused his presentation to level with us about the importance of self-care and how we can’t let all of this overwhelm us. He gave us two pieces of advice that I will try to keep in my mind and heart from now on. First, he said, “Don’t think about how awful it is. Think about how awesome it is that you get to do something about it.” Second, he said, “Remember to laugh. If you ever find that you’ve lost your ability to laugh, then please get out.” The second half of the week was better. I’m starting to make sure that I take time every day to enjoy something, even if it’s just a funny TV show, or a video game, or a book of fiction. That helps a lot. And, now that I’m learning how to deal with the heavy and heart-wrenching aspects of this work, I’m glad that I’ve been hearing and feeling everything that I’ve been hearing and feeling this week. I needed all of that exposure and all of those emotions to cement my resolve. Because I am all in now. I am going to be doing everything that I can. Stay tuned to see how that works out.
Not For Sale Campaign
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