Border between Mexico and California
Victims of violence often are at a much higher risk of being trafficked than others. In August I had a chance to be in a safe and sacred place to hear some of the stories that compel me to speak out against this major risk factor. I'm grateful to colleagues Ray Schellinger and Adalia Gutierrez for the opportunity to connect with the women at Deborah's House, a safe place to heal.
Honoring her story, their stories, sharing space, and holding sacred their sufferings, has me undone. When she said, “I wasn’t wanted.”, “I was told often that no sirve para nada (you’re worthless).” or “They called me “Puta” (whore), my gut wrenched though I’ve never been hit. Over and over again, for three continuous days I sit, I listen, and I hold company. I look into her eyes and try to mirror her beauty, her intelligence, her strength, her resilience, and her unfathomable worth. It is hard to convince someone of her glory in an hour when she has a lifetime of insults and lies telling her the opposite. She mentions that little by little she is beginning to feel safer now and that she thanks God for Deborah’s House where she can heal. She feels God’s love for her expressed through the caring people who make Deborah’s House a home.
“C” is kind and gentle, sometimes too accommodating. She works hard, has saved money, taken care of people, been taken advantage of and stolen from.. As a child she was told she was ugly, had funny hair, she was not worth much. She tried to be good, to be helpful, to find acceptance, but no matter what she did it never seemed good enough. She tries to see the best in others, but that hasn’t always worked out for her. Her first husband beat her badly, so much so, that she ended up in the hospital for months with internal injuries and ruptured intestines. Once recovered she moved north to Tijuana where she found work and was making a new life for herself. Compassionate by nature, she met and married her second husband, a soccer referee who had only one arm. She understood what it felt like to be picked on for one’s physicality. At first he treated her well. In public they appeared to be the “perfect couple”, but inside of their apartment was a different reality. He began accusing her of infidelity, going into jealous rages, throwing her against the wall, kicking and hitting her and calling her cruel names. She would not be allowed to leave the apartment alone and when he left he would lock her inside. He often threatened to kill her if she acted unhappy in public or tried to tell anyone what was really going on. She spent her days vacillating between figuring out a plan of escape and thinking of ways to make him happy again so he wouldn’t get angry again. At times she hated him for what he was doing to her and other times grateful for each acts of kindness he expressed, giving her hope that he might actually change someday. No matter how kind she tried to be, how hard she worked to do everything right, he would rage and beat her down with his words and fists; always careful, though, to only hit under the clothes, never on her face or arms so that others might not suspect anything. After a particularly bad beating, “C” found her opportunity to escape when he was out and forgot to lock her in. She ran as fast as she could to the nearest park where she found a police officer that brought her to Deborah’s House.
It was hard for her to admit that she often feels sad and wonders why God has allowed so much pain in her life. I couldn’t answer her “why” questions, all I could do was hold her and honor her sobs. Somehow that seemed to be enough for the moment. When I told her how smart, strong and beautiful she was and that I believed that even though God rarely removes our pain, he can always redeem it, she smiled through her tears. Our connection was a sacred gift that I won’t soon forget. I was reminded of a song that someone taught me. It goes: ”How could anyone ever tell you, you are anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you, you are less than whole? How could anyone fail to notice, that your loving is a miracle? How deeply you’re connected to my soul.” Later on in the day I heard her humming. I was so glad she has found a place to heal.
Thanks for sharing sacred space with me,