I´ve been at a loss for words. Fluctuating between heartache and despair, anger and confusion, I’ve questioned our effectiveness, the possibilities of change and even God’s unfailing power.
You see, we’ve known a family fighting to overcome layers of injustice and brokenness. We’ve walked with them and loved them, through triumphs and failures, large and small. But to our horror we’re also watching destructive cycles continue to repeat from one generation to another: a child sexually acting out what was done to him. The victim in elementary school, he at the crux of adolescence.
As disturbing as the news has been, these occurrences are not uncommon. But nevertheless they reveal a web of broken systems that contribute to their continuation.
Women in prostitution are typically products of abuse and poverty, and then begins a downward spiral of addiction and survival. Empty men search for affirmation in all the wrong places. Neighbors cast judgement and then look away. Savvy business owners see a goldmine and build on it. Social agencies are sustained by wins and the next big story. Cultural norms reinforce ideas of a woman’s weakness and a man’s inherent power. Whole governments thrive on fraud. And children carry the weight of it all. It’s so overwhelming.
But as my stomach churns and the multitude of questions circle in my head, there’s one I cannot let go. Why did she seek help and he did not? This little girl is now having to work through that which she doesn’t understand. And her mother is being forced to revisit her own tragic memories. But what about this little boy…how will he find relief? Who will fight for him?
Society has improved significantly strengthening efforts to empower women. Little girls now know that they can find help when something is wrong. But that young man? Where does he turn when he’s hurt and scared? How does he know he won’t be utterly ridiculed when the tears fall? And where does he direct the pain? Because pain always catches up with us.
What he can’t express, he repeats. And the cycle continues.
I recently met John Yoder from GLUE Ministries, an outreach to Western sex tourism clients in Cambodia. As he’s equally compassionate to the men who frequent the red-light district, I asked him, “What is it then, that draws these men here? Is it porn?” And although he agreed that pornography heavily influences the degradation of women, he also clarified, “Many of these men are also victims.”
And there it comes full circle for me – a seemingly unending cycle.
Onlookers have asked, how do you do it? How do you keep going? And I honestly don’t know. I’ve certainly wanted to quit, multiple times. But if I can be a bit trivial, it feels somewhat like Diana Prince’s dilemma in the recent Wonder Woman movie. While on the island of Themyscira she faces a choice: Stay and never enter the fight. Or choose to enter the battle. There’s pain in her eyes as she turns away from loved ones and leaves behind all the comfort she’s ever known. But in doing so, she discovers everything she was made for.
In light of the tension and in the midst of intense darkness, I still choose the battle – to stay in the fight. I no longer have grandiose ideas of curbing the world’s evil, but I can’t just quit either. In the meantime, these truths sustain: Faith can move mountains. Hope does not disappoint. Love.never.fails.