Allow me to introduce you to Liz Williamson. Liz is a survivor of child sex trafficking but more importantly, she knows she is madly loved. Liz is the adopted daughter of Jenny Williamson, founder of Courage Worldwide. Hers is an incredible story with an incredible ending…
Did you know? Did you know how old I was, maybe not how old I was presented to be? Did you care? Did you think about my heart or my mind or only about your desires?
Writing this, I want you to know my heart.
I longed for a family. I longed for a home. I longed for a room that was a safe, for a room that
was mine, for a room that opened from the inside. I longed for sleep. I longed for safety.
I once tried to sleep with sneakers on in case I was able to run away. But, I promise you, I was defeated.
Trying to fight was maddening because I lost every time. So, I learned not to fight with my body. I learned to fight in my mind. I learned to blankly smile and nod and participate but to keep my heart far from it all. I learned how to not cringe on the outside. I learned how to be numb. Maybe worst of all, I learned how to lie to myself. All of the anger that should have been directed to those that hurt me, to those that designed the plans, to those that should have done something, I turned on myself.
I was still a child desperately trying to make sense of my world.
I believed the only people that cared about me were those that paid money to be with me. They were the ones who helped me with my Math homework or explained the silent “a” sound in the word was when I got embarrassed in school for saying it wrong. Being hurt was my only constant truth.
As a child, I believed when someone took pictures of my body, they also took my heart. No one could explain to me anything different. I knew they were stealing everything and I owned nothing.
The anger I felt was overwhelming. I want to tell you this not to hurt you but because I believe now if you knew the truth, you would see life differently. Every Tuesday night for a few years of my life, I went to the local Holiday Inn to spend the night with one particular man. I would grab every green Starlite mint off the receptionist counter before walking into the elevator. That was my routine. He would eat at the buffet and I would sit in the hotel room eating every mint pretending to be anywhere but there. I would open the wrapper and focus on crunching on that mint so I didn’t hear how loudly my heart was beating or how scared I felt.
I seethed in anger, but eventually, it felt pointless.
There was no man or woman on my side. What didn’t they see? What couldn’t they see? The bruises and scars were obvious. My absences from school were notable. Eventually all of the anger settled into one lie, I am invisible, and I deserve this.
Birthdays and years confirmed this. I believed this for too long. Running away in the dark at 23, I remember every time my feet pounded the pavement and pain shot through my whole body.
Not one car stopped to help.
Years later, I can see these same memories, this same pain, and the anger I feel fuels a different fight.
Yes, I know what it feels like to be locked in a room and have no control. But, I want to break down that door for another child, for another human, for someone who also believes they are invisible.
I am on the side of the invisible, of the forgotten, of the ignored.
Liz’s Story: A Song of Redemption
In 2008, when Jenny Williamson was in the early days of working with girls who had been trafficked, she met Stephanie Midthun. Jenny had recently met three women that identified themselves as prostitutes who had all told her the same thing: “Please, build this home and help these girls – they just need someone to believe in them so they don’t turn out like me.”
Telling Stephanie this, Jenny was brainstorming on how they could get the message out: they needed a song to tell the story of the girls, she said, a song to say ‘Believe in Me’. Jenny had no idea that Stephanie was, in fact, a song writer. Stephanie wrote the song a few days later and had a 15-year old with a powerful voice record it. A film maker did a video and it was launched on Facebook in 2009.
(Disclaimer: this music video is tastefully done but does contain themes of violence and sex. While not explicit, is not recommended for children under the age of 13 without parental supervision)
Half way across the country, Liz saw the music video through Facebook, and emailed Jenny saying she didn’t know anyone else knew about girls like her. The song haunted Liz and eventually propelled her to run away in the middle of the night with no shoes. She fled to a homeless shelter. Soon after that, Jenny invited her to come to Courage House and be her daughter…
And the rest is history….
Liz is one of the Courageous Ones. And there are thousands more like her, who don’t know that we are there to help. The #ACourageousOne project is one, tangible you can make a difference RIGHT NOW AS YOU ARE READING THIS. We can help more Courageous Ones like Liz by giving our own courageous one:
- Donate ONE DOLLAR towards rescuing trafficked women and girls. There are many great organizations working on this, but I have personal relationships with Courage Worldwide and International Justice Mission. Would you send #ACourageousOne DOLLAR and raise money?
- Pray for ONE MINUTE for the rescue and restoration of trafficking victims? Just one minute. Pray for girls like Liz to hear the message of hope. Pray that they would find safe places to go. Would you spend #ACourageousOne MINUTE in prayer and raise hope?
- Share ONE POST about sex trafficking on social media. Share yesterday’s post about the A Courageous One project. Share Liz’s story to inspire others. Share Believe in Me, or either of the video clips from yesterday. You never know what other Courageous Ones might be listening. Would you share #ACourageousOne POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA and raise awareness?
Thanks for reading and sharing, friends.