A few months back we got an email with SEXUAL ABUSE HAPPENED TO US! in the subject line. We've heard from a lot of abuse survivors, but never so boldly declared. It was from a sixteen-year-old girl who, along with seven other teen girls, meets with a therapist once a week to deal with having been sexually abused, many of them over a long period of time, most of them by someone in the family (no surprise there.) Many had been, and are being, how to say this nicely, screwed over by a justice system that, in many cases, still feels it's okay to punish a man for molest the neighbor's kid but not their own. All suffer from shame, pain, anger and many from the effects of abuse as played out in teen behavior - drugs, promiscuity, running away. They have decided that they want more for themselves, they want a future like Mia's. And they wrote us to say so.
She also asked us to come help them see how they can do what Mia did, because they can't see themselves as ever getting past where they are. We said we'd be happy to talk with them by speakerphone but our schedule is such that we're out of town several times a month for work, usually speaking engagements. We explained that that's how we make our living (it is the rare author who actually makes a living writing a book, you make a living speaking about it.) But she persisted. And persisted. And persisted. Speakerphone wasn't enough.. So this group of girls who are struggling just to get through life without screwing up, has done something few healthy adults do - they had a vision, made a declaration and made it happen. They learned how to write a grant (a difficult thing to do) for money for to bring us there. And listen to this: they came up with the idea of "Come Back Coffee," named both for our book and for their making a come back themselves; they contacted a local co-op that sells organic coffee grown by widows in Nicaragua; they're putting their label on it and selling it to raise money. They're flying us to Madison this weekend.
Could we have bought our own tickets? Of course, we could have. But we would have taken away the opportunity for them to learn something about themselves - that they can create success, that empowerment is a choice, it comes from within; and that no one, no molester, can hold you back or disempower you. Their therapist shared that they've never been motivated like this. Raising enough money for two plane tickets would not have seemed in the realm of the possible for them before this. Having a vision and the willingness to work for it has taught them more than anything we can say to them this weekend.
And just a visit wasn't enough, either. The want us to do some of the processes Mia did in the book, like the bonfire. Most kids who found themselves doing this were kidnapped by escorts in the night and dragged kicking and screaming to boot camp schools. These girls are asking, nay demanding, transformation. Amazing, mais non?
In fact, Lee Rayburn, who has a popular show on the local Air America affiliate, WXXM 92.1 in Madison, WI, did an hour on these girls, our experience and the Parental Stress Center where they meet once a week. Click here to hear a podcast of the interview (half-hour of me probably talking too fast, half-hour of the director of the center.)
And so this has turned into a Very Big Weekend, indeed! As always, I'm getting far more out of the dreams and determination of children than they'll ever get from me. And I've had the chance to feel like a child myself all week, coming up with ideas for processes and buying props and totems and touchstones for them, figuring out how to get it all into a suitcase. God help me if I get searched by airport security.
Tune in next week for a report on the weekend, with photos.