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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. 

Learning To Feel Worthy

You know, a few days ago at a wedding, a friend of mine told me I looked hot. He’s a great friend and although I know that he does not easily say things like this, I honestly can’t say that I believed him. While I said thank you; in my mind I only heard “He’s just saying that to make you feel better. Don’t believe it.

It’s shameful to me. It’s shameful to me that there are days I hear “You’re beautiful” or “You look stunning” or “You’re so smart, you have the world in front of you,” all I hear back are whispers of “you’re not good enough”.

I wish to myself that I wouldn’t feel this way; I pray that I could honestly always believe that I was enough, that I was beautiful enough, smart enough, just enough.

However, even with everything in the world going for me…I doubt.

I doubt a lot.

I write this because I, like many of you, am on a journey. I cannot imagine that a person, like me, who was so loved all her life would struggle so much. I write this because I know that I am one day closer to the end of this journey. I write this because I know somewhere out there, someone else is crying like me.

This post is simple. You and I are worthy of feeling worthy, and until I believe that, every day (not just most days) I will write to you. I will reach out to you, oh precious one who doesn’t love the curve of her stomach, or the freckles on her cheek. To the one who does not believe they are good enough to get whatever job they want, or does not feel that they can take even one step today…I write this to you.

I write for you, for me…for all of us who are on a journey.

It’s okay to be not okay.

It’s perfectly okay to understand that this is just a moment…the tears, the pain, the emotion.

It’s okay to have days like this. It’s okay to cry.

It’s even better to take a breath, understand why you are feeling the way you are, and then move forward. It’s even better, if you’re like me, to put on music that points me to a power higher than myself and rest in that. It’s even better to put on your gear and run, run, run…it’s even better to have a bit of chocolate and then find a friend and tell them that “Today, I’m struggling”.

We’re all going to have days like this…but let them only be moments, then turn around, look in the mirror and know that these moments do not control us, we control them.

We are so worthy of knowing our worth. We are so worth loving.

Written and loved on by Michelle Plett

P.S. If you have a story to tell, don’t hesitate to submit your word-love to submissions@soworthloving.com. You honestly have no clue how many hearts are just like yours, and with that, they need just the same amount of reminders that they are not alone in their struggles. 

I want you to know that you aren’t the only one dealing with this. You haven’t gone too far and/or done something too awful. You aren’t defined by your addiction, and you can see freedom from it.

Shawn Buck

T H R O W B A C K  T H U R S D A Y

For the sake of #TBT, here is a lovely video of our very own, Eryn. 

Her music career is essentially what started So Worth Loving in the first place, so why not commemorate the journey? 

Listen and soak it in, because no matter if it is a #tbt or any other time, you are always beautiful, and you are always everything you need to be. 

Falling In Love

What if your true soul mate is yourself?

Over the last few years, I’ve had a desire to be more connected with people. It’s through those connections that I’ve learned of this amazing thread of continuity that connects us all, but what happens when you cross paths with someone for a brief moment and you find yourself instantly connected?
This happened to me recently. Is this person a soul mate? I’d like to think so. I’d also like to think that I have many soul mates in this world. People who just get you, and you get them on the deepest of levels. 
What if the person you need to fall in love with before anyone else, though, is you? 
When you hear this you might be thinking of words like conceited, vain, narcissistic, self-absorbed, or self-centered. We’ve all encountered people like this before.
No,
I’m talking about falling in love with yourself on a much deeper level, a soul mate level, and unconditional level.
It’s hard to get there. I certainly struggle with it, especially since the world gives us no help. But I’ll tell you something I’ve learned:
It’s very difficult for me to recognize my soul’s counterpoint without first recognizing myself, and in recognizing myself, I begin to understand what my soul seeks. 
So, what do you think? Is your true soul mate yourself?
Written and loved on by Andy Ryan