“You’re not helping me,” she screamed as she hung up the phone. It’s not the first time we’ve heard it, it definitely won’t be the last, and it’s often correct. We’re playing a game where we have to make the best decision, based on very little information and completely contingent on a adolescent girl’s mood. I make a note to apologize to my mother as soon as the opportunity presents itself and sit a little deflated at my desk.
It’s been three days since the story hit. Shared a 1000 times, Trending a day ago only to be replaced with “National Dog Day” (insert sardonic grin here), and news coverage everywhere. The article is pulled up on my computer and reads like so many of our girls stories, even though it’s a state away. And the calls! It’s been a constant stream, as people are suddenly aware it could happen anywhere to anybody.
I find myself fighting between that hopeful optimism of “maybe this will be enough to wake people up” to the apathetic “sure, you’ll share it on your social media, but will you really do anything.”
I reread the story comparing and contrasting it to our ladies, wondering what will come of this girl. It instantly makes me frustrated, a state I find myself in often lately. There’s just not enough! Not enough places, not enough staff, not enough resources, just not enough.
And then I think about the comment, “you are not helping me,” and although I know it was said in an emotional moment, I understand. I relate. You see, there are numerous times when I want to scream “YOU ARE NOT HELPING ME.” The need is growing and I’m tired. The need is growing and the girls are scared.
So I reread the article and I wonder, “are you still going to be there?” When the news hype dies down and this article is no longer trending, “are you still going to be there?”
Are you still going to be there when she’s screaming and hiding in her bed because her flashbacks are so real?
Are you still going to be there when she can barely keep her eyes open in school because she sat up all night watching the door, a pattern she learned while being the “watcher” that sat up to keep the men from coming in?
Are you still going to be there when she refuses to do school work because she’s at a 3rd grade reading level?
Are you still going to be there when she refuses to acknowledge you or follow any of your directions because you happen to be the same race as her traffickers?
Are you still going to be there when she steals a phone to call her trafficker to come get her, not thinking of the risk she’s putting the other girls in?
Are you still going to be there when she put more value on the “$40 I can make on the streets” than on her own safety?
Are you still going to be there when the torment in her head is so much, she has to bang it against the tile floor to get it to stop?
Are you still going to be there?
Because if you are, you’ll get to see her experience her princess tea party the first birthday she’s had in 10 years. You’ll get to see her go to her first drive-in movie. You’ll get to see her create a beautiful mosaic masterpiece. You’ll get to hear her yell “my brain is having so much fun” as she conquers least common multiples. You’ll get to see her reading her Mark Twain book and recite great pieces of literature (and sometimes she might stop calling you a *@#$ and start calling you a rapscallion). You’ll get see her learn to be advocate for herself, confront appropriately, express herself in unique ways and learn to trust again.
But, you still have to be there!
A week after that phone call, I found myself at the house. Her setting as close to me as possible and an agreement was made…I would call a few times through the week just to check in and so she would know I was still going to be there.