I Might've Been A "Missing" Child
This isn't something I'd normally write about, but it's been eating me up inside these last few months as I learn more and more about all of the "missing" children.
This topic has nothing to do with health and nutrition or coaching and that's okay. If writing a weekly blog means sharing my voice with you, I'll share what's on my heart too.
We can all agree that this year has been unlike any other. With more of us at home, possibly not working and more than likely spending countless hours on the internet, we've become exposed to more of the horrific realities in the world that sadly have always existed, yet have become more widespread and accessible to us online today. There are many pieces of this to cover and this post won't ever do this topic justice, but I'll share a few stories and try my best.
As a teen I struggled to have a good relationship with my mom.
I was a good kid, got straight A's but I hated feeling trapped. I realize now that I was fighting "confinement". No, I wasn't in prison, but it sure felt like it. I was so monitored it drove me nuts. All I wanted to do was be free "like the other kids". Maybe you can relate? Maybe not.
I couldn't go anywhere after school unless it was to practice on the drill team which I had to beg her to let me join in the first place. I was never allowed to walk to and from school. My mom had warned us about the creeps in the neighborhood that "took children away" and she proved it to us by looking them up online. We grew up watching Unsolved Mysteries which certainly doesn't help, but it was reality that this was happening. I knew that. It just never felt real till it... was real.
A Few True Stories
Uno: In Nicaragua my mom's cousin, Thelma went missing in the late 1980's. She was "so beautiful" as my mom described her and had two young children. Things were really hard financially and she decided to leave for the US along with a few others. Her plan was to find work to build a better life for her family so that she could send back money to her mother and kids, but she went "missing". She mysteriously disappeared and was never found. Her mom became worried sick looking for her for years. She still looks for her till this day.
Dos: When I was a baby we left Honduras for Mexico due to the violent war that had spread across Nicaragua. I turned 1 in Mexico and then we moved further north to Los Angeles where we lived for a few months. My dad would share this story with me from time to time when I was a kid but I never paid much attention to it. I simply didn't "get it". But, I do now. I called my mom this morning to ask her for more details:
"Your dad, sister and I were walking home from the grocery store in LA. I was holding your sisters hand and your dad was always holding your hand. In the other hand he carried a bag of groceries. I noticed a normal looking, white man in nice clothes come closer and closer to you and I started to feel really uncomfortable. I could tell your dad was worried too. The man didn't look crazy at all but he did look like he was on a mission. Within a few seconds he ran up to you and grabbed your arm to try to pull you away. Your dad quickly dropped the groceries in his left hand and held you tightly. If it wasn't for your dad that sick man would've run off with you to do God knows what. I know many children end up sold and abused for years. I don't like thinking about this at all but... that could've been you."
It made me sick. Thinking a grown man would try to snatch me, a two year old from my father's hand. What was he thinking? Where was he going? Was he a dealer? Was he hoping to take advantage, abuse and sell me? Maybe I would've ended up on the back of a milk carton. Or maybe I'd be among the thousands of black and white mailings showing what I'd look like as an older missing kid, like the ones I'd see in the mailbox growing up.
It made sense why my mom was overprotective. She grew up knowing real world danger and she wanted to protect us from it like any normal, good mother would. During my entire childhood, I went to exactly 1 sleepover, but only after my mom had interviewed everyone in the house and made sure I'd be safe. I also remember walking to school only a handful of times (only after begging her if I could).
Tres: It was my 1st day of 8th grade and I felt so excited to be "walking to middle school all by myself" instead of being dropped off. Silly, I know. But, so many of my friends had been allowed to walk to school that I finally felt like "one of them". I decided to leave home early to make sure I wouldn't be late to class. I'll never forget when 3 grown, white men pulled up in a shiny green Cadillac to the corner by the back entrance of school and the one in the back seat swung his door open. He looked me dead in the eyes and said:
"Hey pretty girl. Hurry up, get in!"
My heart sank and I panicked. I'll never forget the drivers face. He resembled a huge filthy human pig. He was obese, had red cheeks and had a disgusting, evil look in his eyes. This couldn't have been the first time they'd done this. It's like they had it planned perfectly. Before I could think to breathe, I ran to the school gate which was literally across the corner. Maybe this was their sick game. Why would three grown men drive by a middle school at 8:00 in the morning..? Sick.
When they realized they weren't going to have their way with me, they quickly drove off. I still remember my brand new, white tennis shoes hitting the cement hard and fast as I heard their car tremble away. I went straight to the bathroom and sat on the floor shaking. Now I understood why my mom was so persistent on never letting me walk to school.
Quatro: In my early twenties I visited Phuket, Thailand. Alone. I know, crazy right? The country was warm and beaches were beautiful. I booked the cheapest hole in the wall hotel and I'd walk to the same cafe. Each morning a pretty, young Russian waitress would take my order. She never smiled or made eye-contact with me which was strange. She quickly took my order and sat in the back. She was robotic and emotionless. What was she doing here? It was clear she wasn't making any money. After all, it was another crummy cafe. Had she been trafficked and held against her will? On my last day, I left her my phone number on the back of the napkin and told her she could call me if she ever wanted someone to talk to. She never called. Maybe she didn't want to, or maybe she simply couldn't.
On the site, International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, it states the following:
One Missing Child Is One Too Many... In Australia, an estimated 20,000 children are reported missing every year. - Australian Federal Police, Ntl Coordination Centre.
In Canada, an estimated 45,288 children are reported missing each year. - Government of Canada, Canada’s Missing – 2015 Fast Fact Sheet.
In Germany, an estimated 100,000 children are reported missing each year. - Initiative Vermisste Kinder.
In India, an estimated 96,000 children go missing each year. - Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Missing Children of India.
In the United Kingdom, an estimated 112,853 children are reported missing every year. - National Crime Agency, UK Missing Persons Bureau.
In the United States, an estimated 460,000 children are reported missing every year.- FBI, NCIC.
How in the world are all of these children missing?! 460,000 kids in the US? If these numbers don't terrify you, I don't know what to say. I looked up the database for California and it showed that 640 children are missing in California alone!
I wish I had a solution to make this "all better", but I don't. Perhaps bringing awareness is the first step. We can't fix what we aren't aware of, so how about we become more aware. How about we all wake up and see what's happening. Where are the children?! Why doesn't the media inform us each time a child goes missing and update the overall numbers for all of us to see - everyday... like they do on every other "hot topic"?
Sex Trafficking is a huge problem.
When the world runs out of drugs, what else can the bad guys turn to for a never-ending profit? Sex. Sex sells. We all know this. And sick people with lots of money have the power to control, manipulate, pay, abuse and destroy lives. What if this was YOUR BABY or CHILD?
The media and social media is part of the problem too. In case you're not aware, CEO, Jack Dorsey recently updated Twitter's terms and conditions to ban people wanting to protect children YET allows others to sexualize children:
"Discussions related to child sexual exploitation as a phenomenon or attraction towards minors are permitted provided they don’t promote or glorify child sexual exploitation in any way. It will allow for nude depictions of children on their platform as long as the images meet certain criteria including being “artistic.”
Artistic... really Jack? No.
Given that a child isn't able to legally consent, this is wrong. Also, in case you didn't know, Twitter allows for users 13 years and above to access and use their platform. That means that pedophiles on the web can now target your 13 year old.
Sadly, I can go on and on, but doing your part is important and educating yourself and your family is key:
Don't take my blog post for the source of truth. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!
Be mindful of what your children are exposed to online and on their phones. Add age-appropriate settings for all social media and block chatrooms. These are all easy ways for traffickers to gain access to your child and manipulate them into sharing private details, photos and meeting in person.
Video games may be harmless but many pedophiles have been caught pretending to be children in chatrooms. Always be present when they play. If any fishy messages comes through, save and report it to the police. Don't delete evidence.
Keep your children in positive activities they enjoy. If your child is bored, they might venture into unhealthy habits to fill their time (skip school, drugs, hang with the wrong crowd, etc.)
If you work with children, look out for the signs: child missing school frequently, child runs away from home, child says they've been abused sexually, child in a home with parents of substance abuse, and a child who associates themself as LGBTQ may be at-risk of becoming a run-away and vulnerable.
If you come across anyone who may be in danger related to human trafficking, please call 911. To learn more, visit the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, call 1-888-3737-888 or email: email@example.com.
Sending prayers to all the missing babies, children and loved ones in the world and hoping for their safe return home.
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