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So Worth Loving

A Slave At Fifteen (A Story Through Not For Sale)

Shawna* was 15 when she first showed up on the radar of local service providers. Her days were spent walking the streets, soliciting men for sex. While most girls her age were at school, Shawna was working the noon and 3pm shifts.

She was an American citizen with American parents living in Oakland, California. Her home wasn’t safe: violent outbursts threatened her physical safety. Her school was broken, her neighborhood was dangerous.

While Shawna was searching for a support system, a pimp in her community was searching for vulnerable girls. He used a girl Shawna’s age to lure her into approaching him. He flirted with her and made her feel special, made her feel like his girlfriend. So when he asked her to start working the street, she felt she had no choice but to accept the offer. His love and affection were the most important thing in the world to her. She would do anything to keep them, and he knew it.

Exploiting a young girl through a close relationship is the most common form of coercion we encounter in our work domestically, and internationally. In our most recent impact report, we found that the most common entry into trafficking is coercion by someone the victim knew.

Venus Rodriguez [pictured above] has been working with commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) like Shawna in the Bay Area for the past 7 years. As we launch our first project in the United States, we have enlisted her help to develop a program that will interrupt the cycle of exploitation here at home. The problem is big: each year 300,000 US children become CSEC victims.

When we talk with Venus about her experience supporting survivors in the US, she reiterates that these young girls are living without any support system. Their families aren’t safe; their schools aren’t safe; they are deprived of the love and support children need to grow. They become prey. In the US alone there are an estimated 400,000 kids in foster care, many in environments notorious for abuse and instability.

The road to exploitation in the US is filled with long-term environmental factors, and exploiters who sell children for sex have a long-term plan to manipulate girls into a life so full of shame it is extremely difficult to leave. Venus explains that, “exploiters know that they need to invest time in breaking a girl down, gaining her trust and blinding her to all other options. Our work is to make long-term solutions. We need to prove to these girls that we care for them 24/7. We need to prove that we will be there when they need us.”

With the help of experts like Venus, we aim to give victims like Shawna and other youth in similar environments of instability a choice, something life has never given them. We’re ready to break the cycle of exploitation and empower youth to defy their circumstances.

STAY UP TO DATE ON BREAKING UPDATES ON THE FIGHT TO END EXPLOITATION IN THE US BY FOLLOWING US ON OUR NEW TWITTER CHANNEL: @NFS_USA.

We are not for sale. We are so worth loving. 

Our Love You. Love People. unisex tee is officially up for grabs on our site!
Now, it’ll be easier for you to own this delight, as well as receive it in the best gold packaging ever!
It will be like receiving a party in your mail box. 
Go shop on our site to find your unique fit of this comfortable reminder! 

#loveyoulovepeople High-res

Our Love You. Love People. unisex tee is officially up for grabs on our site!

Now, it’ll be easier for you to own this delight, as well as receive it in the best gold packaging ever!

It will be like receiving a party in your mail box. 

Go shop on our site to find your unique fit of this comfortable reminder

#loveyoulovepeople

"We all have stories. We all have faults & imperfections & tough things we have to overcome. Growing up, I put my worth in the pressure to be perfect. I beat myself up anytime I made a mistake, thinking that to be worthy of love, I had to be “perfect”. I know now that your faults don’t define you, and your imperfections are what make you beautiful. Once I let go of wanting to control everything and be perfect, I was able to see the beauty in the chaos, and the beautiful mess life is. Once I learned to love every part of myself, I was able to overcome depression, anxiety, and all the pressures I put on myself. I learned that truly loving yourself means embracing every part of you, the good and the bad. Your past does not define you, your scars do not define you. I am so worth loving, and so are you! When you fully love yourself, you can love others better. How did you overcome pain? How did you choose to love yourself? Everyone has a story, what’s yours? This month I challenge ya’ll to share yours. Post a picture of yourself & share 1 piece of advice on how you learned to love yourself, or how you still are using #loveyoulovepeople. Feel free to email me at michaella@soworthloving.com, I’d love to get to know you + your story & share more of mine. Your story matters.” — @yellowbirdvisuals High-res

"We all have stories. We all have faults & imperfections & tough things we have to overcome. Growing up, I put my worth in the pressure to be perfect. I beat myself up anytime I made a mistake, thinking that to be worthy of love, I had to be “perfect”. I know now that your faults don’t define you, and your imperfections are what make you beautiful. Once I let go of wanting to control everything and be perfect, I was able to see the beauty in the chaos, and the beautiful mess life is. Once I learned to love every part of myself, I was able to overcome depression, anxiety, and all the pressures I put on myself. I learned that truly loving yourself means embracing every part of you, the good and the bad. Your past does not define you, your scars do not define you. I am so worth loving, and so are you! When you fully love yourself, you can love others better. How did you overcome pain? How did you choose to love yourself? Everyone has a story, what’s yours? This month I challenge ya’ll to share yours. Post a picture of yourself & share 1 piece of advice on how you learned to love yourself, or how you still are using #loveyoulovepeople. Feel free to email me at michaella@soworthloving.com, I’d love to get to know you + your story & share more of mine. Your story matters.” — @yellowbirdvisuals

Advice from Josh

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The message of worth is not only good for the feminine soul, but for the masculine one as well.

Harmed by sexual abuse as a child, I know deeply the mark of shame it can leave and how marred your sense of self can become. The journey to healing is difficult (mine is years in the making) still, I offer these two keys:

Light and Community

What is left in darkness will never heal. Don’t try to figure out if it was your fault. Someone needs to hear your story and you will need the support of loved ones to heal.

There is certainly no shame in that. 

- Want to share your story? Take a picture of yourself on Instagram, share your word-love, and hashtag #loveyoulovepeople. You really don’t know who you could impact while also showing someone that they are not alone. Loving yourself does not discriminate with gender, race, size, anything.

All it needs is you

I Hope Someone Finds Hope In This

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I still remember the scene like it was yesterday. The confrontation, the argument, the shouting, and the way that every word pierced a little deeper till I snapped. The tears came quickly and my world was shattered. Everything that happened next played out like some movie, like I was watching myself act and react from outside my own body. I stumbled to the cabinets, found the pills, and took copious amounts of them. I thought surely the pain would stop, surely the voices of self doubt and fear would cease, and I would just go to “sleep” finally without worrying anymore.

 Those events that I just recounted in short took place June 4th, 2007. As you can tell from the fact that I’m writing this, I’m not dead but I probably should be. Today is the 7-year anniversary of that day. Its crazy to think on all the things that I would have missed out on that have taken place in these last 7 years. One thing that I have come to believe over these last 7 years is that experiences/wisdom do not mean anything unless we share them with others. I have suffered some very terrible situations in my life that have led to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and attempted suicide and yes, those things are hard, but I want to share a little bit about what I’ve learned and maybe some things that could help someone else from ending up where I almost did.

  •  Silence and holding it in never works.

I was taken advantage of sexually when I was 13. I didn’t tell anybody about it for 6 and a half years. Even though what that person did to me was terrible, I did something just as bad by holding that in for so long. I let it defeat me everyday and let it rot me away from the inside. So if you have been hurt, or feel something that you think is shameful, holding it in will only lead to more hurt and shame. Find someone you can trust, speak up, and you will begin the road to healing.

  •  Depression is real, it sucks, but its not the end.

I grew up in the church, and it seemed like no one was ever sad unless they were at a funeral. It was then hard for me to process the immense amount of pain and sadness that I had in me at such a young age. I suppressed it, boxed it up, and ignored it but eventually you will run out space in the attic of your heart. If you’re hurting, admit it. If you’re unhappy, that’s ok. It can be summed up like this, “Its ok to not be ok but its not ok to stay that way.”- Perry Noble.   

  •  Get counseling.

Counseling literally saved my life. It is not a sign of weakness. In fact, I think everyone would benefit from it. At some point, when going through depression, everyone thinks that they are in fact a little crazy; that if people could hear their thoughts they would be shunned, and that there’s no way that they are sane. Counseling will actually help show that you are quite normal and that you just needed to be able to talk and communicate freely in order to find that out.

  • Time doesn’t heal all things, perspective does.

Years and years can pass from a certain incident in your life and it can seem just as raw as the day it happened. This probably means that you haven’t tried to really remove yourself from that situation. When you start to see yourself as a functioning human outside of whatever was done to you, then you will see that you are bigger than that problem and that your life will go on.

  •  Life is better in community.

Everything: the depression, the anxiety, the panic attacks, the countless days spent just staying in, they are all about isolation. It’s a vicious cycle. These things all happen to only you and then make you not want to be around people, which is really what you need. If your activities, your days, and your choices tend to isolate you, then reevaluate. Do whatever it takes to be in community.

  •  Hope is Real.

No explaining here. Once you get a hold of hope, it’s truly hard to lose it. I found real hope when I woke up in that hospital bed that fateful night and haven’t been able to shake it since.

  •  Do beautiful things

Seek beauty, create beauty, find beauty. Eat a pizza, watch your favorite movie, make someone a card, dance on top of your car. You can inject happiness into your life, and it will increase.

 

I hope that someone finds hope in this.

Written and loved on by someone who wants you to love yourself.

What are you freeing yourself from today? 
Check out our instagram and let us know!! If you do, you could win two… count them.. TWO of these motivating Free to Be posters! Just repost this picture on Instagram including: 
1. What you’re freeing yourself from!
2. Use the hashtag #freetobe
3. Leave your email in the comments below the picture! Winner will be chosen at random + emailed! Yay emails! 
(www.tour.soworthloving.com) High-res

What are you freeing yourself from today? 

Check out our instagram and let us know!! If you do, you could win two… count them.. TWO of these motivating Free to Be posters! Just repost this picture on Instagram including: 

1. What you’re freeing yourself from!

2. Use the hashtag #freetobe

3. Leave your email in the comments below the picture! Winner will be chosen at random + emailed! Yay emails! 

(www.tour.soworthloving.com)

EXCITING NEWS!

  

note from the founder:
[As you know our wonderful Micaela stepped down due to her roles in her new job. We were so sad to see her step down but so proud and excited for her and her future!! We will always be her cheerleaders!

After some time to think through things and see what was going to unfold for us, I am excited to introduce to you our newest family member + blog editor Karlye Hayes!]

note from our new blog editor:
Hello beautiful family! I’m Karlye. I am more than stoked about this new adventure with you guys!

So, I was told to give y’all a bit of a back story about my life. I have the physical capability of talking for hours so I’m just going to narrow down my stories to one specifically about So Worth Loving, and how it came into my life at the perfect time.

When I discovered So Worth Loving, I was going through a hardcore emotional healing process. While truly facing all of my struggles and overcoming them, hating myself was the hardest struggle to face.

I was very unhappy with my appearance and my distaste for myself grew into distaste for eating. Unfortunately my story isn’t very unique, but also that is more than fortunate! SWL helped me realize that.

It’s all about not only loving yourself, but also seeing that we are never alone. Knowing that we are not alone can help us relate to each other and produce true growth within ourselves and every path we walk through.

Since So Worth Loving came into my life, I bought more stuff than I probably should and went to any event I could go to. When I went to the Pre-Tour Party in Atlanta, that was when I knew that I wanted to do more than just watch other people make a difference with this amazing message. I wanted more than anything to be a part of this movement. It started with buying the merchandise, and now I’m talking to you via the SWL blog! Of course I still deal with this struggle, but each day, I am loving myself more and more.

Healing is a process, and I am so ecstatic to go through this process with all of you! Through this new journey we are taking, if you ever have questions about anything, don’t hesitate to ask! Just like talking to my grandmamma, we love talking to our family! Anyway, love you guys and can’t wait for the next post to bring us together again!!

You’re amazing,

Karlye


note from our team:
We wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you. Our blog is so important. It’s why we exist; to bring community and empower others to know that they are NOT alone. You don’t have to be a pro at words and grammar to share your story. That is very important to us that you know that and don’t let it ever stop you from sharing yours with our community. You bring light to someone else tunnel. Can’t say it better. Interested in sharing your story? Email Karlye at : Submissions@SoWorthLoving.com

Dark Moments



"It’s still snowing? Ok, I’m gonna get the shoveling started because it looks like it’s ending soon." I said. Mar just looked at me and gave me a small smile that said "Thank you." 

It’s amazing to me how even the faintest light reflects off of snow, making it very easy to see at night. I grabbed the shovel and began slowly and methodically cleaning the first part of the driveway, closest to the garage. As I fell into rhythm, the thoughts of the past few days slipped into the back of my mind for the first time. 

The past two weeks have been hard. I guess losing someone you love dearly is not supposed to be easy. It was an unexpected. An unexpected moment in life. When these moments have happened in my life, I typically react in one of two ways. Either, I find myself paralyzed, unable to act, or I begin to fill my minutes with activity, running full steam until I’m out of breath. Here in the evening, in the rhythm of my shoveling, I did something different. I slowed down and I took a breath.

As I paused, I sat down on the newly fallen snow, breathing in and out. It was then the person I had lost came to me and was a whisper in the falling snow. Four simple words, “Take care of her.” For the first time in days, I began to cry. Really cry. I held it together for my children and wife in hope of providing strength where they had none. Now it was my turn.

What I realized as I lay there in the snow was that in these unexpected moments, in these darkest of days I am never alone. The whisper proved that to me. As I let this sink in, I began to think about how many of our friends came and supported us, and how many friends reached out to us just to let us know that they are here if we need them. 

This life brings so much joy and so much pain. If you find yourself in an unexpected moment, please know that you are not alone. WE are always here to share in your pain and provide strength and encouragement in the quiet moments.


Post by Andy Ryan

Eating Disorder and Self Love

"I’m a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself, but I’ve found it hard to practice. I’ll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder… to learn to love myself again, exactly as I am." -Ke$ha

We admire and support your decision Ke$ha. You are beautiful and learning to appreciate yourself is honorable. Keep going, keep fighting, and know you are worthy of love. #swlfamily

Love, Eryn