2013 Favs: Amazing Grace: A Former Prostitute Tells Her Story

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Linda Cavanah is the founder and Director of All Things New, a ministry for women coming out of prostitution and trafficking. In what I regard as a singular act of courage, she volunteered to write a guest post for Public Catholic telling the truth of what “sex-work” really is. The result is a first-hand, no-holds-barred witness to the reality of prostitution. Here, in her own words, is her story

.… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone, and a new life has begun.

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My name is Linda Cavanah, and I am the founder of All Things New Inc., a faith-based organization providing residential services for victims of sex trafficking.

All Things New exists because of the healing power of Jesus Christ in my own life many years ago when I was one of the women we are now serving.

My cycle of sexual abuse began at the age of 14 when an uncle raped me in my parent’s home.  I was too frightened to tell my parents what had happened and held everything inside for many years.  At that time, I did not realize how devastating that event was to become in my life, leading to a succession of problems emotionally and spiritually. Eventually, the things that were hidden deep within me escalated into a dual addiction of alcohol and cocaine.

My first marriage lasted two years and ended in divorce. I then promptly entered into a common law marriage, and it was during this union that my ex-husband and I began dealing drugs. The drug addiction increased over the next couple of years until I was drinking approximately 13 alcoholic beverages and snorting several lines of cocaine on a daily basis. This marriage also ended in divorce.

I do need to say that both of these unions were not true marriages because we were all addicts and they were not ordained of God.

I moved to New Orleans in 1980 and lived there for several years.  I managed a restaurant and hotel on the outskirts of the French Quarter, and continued the downward spiral in my life.  it was during this time that I became involved with the owners of the hotel, and my addictions had increased to the point of having delirium tremors if I did not get up and have a drink at 2am every morning.

One night we had a party at the hotel, and I went and had sex with one of the owners.  The next morning I woke up and there was a pile of money beside my bed. In the prostitution world, this is similar to being “jumped” into a gang.

There were six men involved in the operation. They each had their own business and then had one together. All of the men each had a woman, and one had control over me.  I was sold to cops in New Orleans (used as hush money) to keep them quiet.  I had to watch pornographic films and then perform those same acts, all the while enduring painful sexual acts behind closed doors.

I wanted to run but there was no way to escape. We were not allowed to use a phone and I was trapped, both physically and emotionally. I was being “groomed” to be a madame for them, and I wanted out so badly. They told me they would kill me if I ever said anything, and they meant it.

 Even though I did not know Jesus at the time, I know He had his hand on me. I was able to leave the situation through the help of another person, and I am still here to tell this story today! I was a single mother to two children, and decided to go to nursing school.  I had a Christian nursing instructor and within a few months I came to know Jesus.

I was immediately delivered from alcohol and drugs, and have had a continual healing from the emotional wounds of my past. Last Easter I was confirmed in the Catholic Church.

God has changed my life and I am eternally grateful. However, there are hundreds of thousands of young women and girls who are trapped in the horrible world of sex trafficking/prostitution.  Anyone who is forced to have sex with other people, is severely beaten and/or has to turn the money over to someone who has control of them is a victim of sex trafficking. Prostitution and sex trafficking are the same thing.

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Sex trafficking is slavery. Young women and girls are made to stand on street corners, or in a room in front of a potential john, and they feel like they are on an auction block, sold to the highest bidder. They endure eyes full of lust staring at their bodies, up and down, up and down, men sizing them up like a horse, not caring anything about them, just looking for their next sexual fix. Inside, the girl is slowly dying emotionally, and probably physically.

I want you to understand that prostitution/sex trafficking is the rape of the body and the soul. Pimps, traffickers and johns are rapists.  Some of them are also murderers.

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Ninety percent of the prostituted women we have helped have had a forced abortion. They are physically held down in the place they are trapped in, and an abortion is performed on them. Included in this statistic are those women who are beaten until their babies die.  These monsters are murderers!  The traffickers starve the women, tell them when they can eat, what they can eat and if they don’t bring in a certain quota, they don’t eat at all.

About a year ago I was called to talk to a young woman who had been severely beaten by a john.  She was black and blue from the top of her head to her feet, and was eating bowl after bowl of food. She said the john had thrown her against a wall and her pimp got mad at HER, so he had not let her eat for several days. Her pimp found out through one of his other girls where she was at, and I found out later that day he drug her by the hair down a street. The next day she was unrecognizable and the pimp had her out on  the street.  Men were still buying her.

Another girl was trapped in a house.  Her trafficker put her in a bathtub of cold water, poured several pitchers of ice on her, held her down until she started bleeding, then threw her against a wall and beat her until she passed out.

We have women who were forced underground and sold twenty to twenty five times a day.  One woman had been trapped for 16 days in an apartment with her tormentors and they had sold her 400 times.  Four hundred times she had been raped!

Women who are victims of sex trafficking feel like a piece of meat.  They are so degraded and traumatized that they sometimes never recover. Their souls and their lives have been stolen. They are dead inside. Multiple personalities abound.  How else can they survive? Despair runs deep and hopelessness abounds.  These victims have a tendency to blame everything on themselves and they don’t realize it is not their fault.  They feel they are falling into a dark, deep bottomless pit.

At the bottom of it all is the pornography that fuels the fire for the demand side of sex trafficking and prostitution.

     Can you hear the cries of the human beings who are being sold?

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All Things New is a 501c3 non profit corporation.

Donations are tax-deductible.

Send donations to:

All Things New, Inc.

PO Box 513

San Antonio, TX 78292

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Vatican to UN: 100,000 Christians Killed for the Faith Each Year

 

One hundred thousand people are

Murdered.

Martyred.

For Christ.

Every year.

 

Many more Christians are

Raped.

Enslaved.

Beaten.

Tortured.

Imprisoned.

Abducted.

Displaced.

For Christ.

Every year.

 

Meanwhile, here in the “Christian” West, Christians are

Censored.

Mocked.

Reviled.

Forced to violate their faith under penalty of law.

Harrassed.

Silenced.

Marginalized.

For Christ.

Every year.

That is the message Vatican spokesman Msgr Silvano Maria Tomasi brought to the United Nations earlier this week. Msgr Tomasi expressed the Holy See’s “deep concern for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities” in some part of the world. At the same time, he pointed out that “in some Western countries … a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services.”

I think it is important to note that Msgr Tomasi was not merely protesting the violent persecution or the marginalization of Catholics. He was speaking out for the civil and human rights of all Christians, everywhere.

People who attack Christianity often try to divide us. For instance, several of the commenters on a recent post I wrote concerning a Christian basher and the Pentagon, tried to say that this Christian bashing wasn’t aimed at Catholics, but Evangelicals. The point, I presume, being that if someone attacks those “other” Christians, the rest of us should either join in with the attackers or at the very least turn our backs on the attacked.

No way.

I like Msgr Tomasi’s approach. It is the one I take on this blog. If you cut any Christian, anywhere, we all bleed. Because we are One Blood, and One Body, and that is the living body and blood of Christ in the world. Any persecuted Christian is my brother or sister.

Let me say that again: Any persecuted Christian is my brother or sister. 

From Vatican Radio:

Vatican to UN: 100 thousand Christians killed for the faith each year

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2013-05-28 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has expressed “deep concern” for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities in regions of the world such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This was pointed out by Msgr. Silvano Maria Tomasi, who spoke Monday at the United Nations in Geneva.

“More than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders -as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo (Syria).

Several of these acts have been perpetrated in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the fruit of bigotry, intolerance, terrorism and some exclusionary laws. In addition, in some Western countries where historically the Christian presence has been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services. 

“It may be useful that the Delegation of the Holy See should recall some pertinent data on the current services to the human family carried out in the world by the Catholic Church without any distinction of religion or race. In the field of education, it runs 70,544 kindergartens with 6,478,627 pupils; 92,847 primary schools with 31,151,170 pupils; 43,591 secondary schools with 17,793,559 pupils. The Church also educates 2,304,171 high school pupils, and 3,338,455 university students. The Church’s worldwide charity and healthcare centres include: 5,305 hospitals; 18,179 dispensaries; 547 Care Homes for people with Leprosy; 17,223 Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability; 9,882 orphanages; 11,379 creches; 15,327 marriage counseling; 34,331 social rehabilitation centres and 9,391 other kinds of charitable institutions. To such data about social action activity, there should be added the assistance services carried out in refugee camps and to internally displaced people and the accompaniment of these uprooted persons. This service certainly doesn’t call for discrimination against Christians.

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Book Review: Joining the Present Day Abolitionists

 

Join the discussion on Refuse To Do Nothing or find a link to buy a copy here

I serve on the board of directors of All Things New. All Things New is dedicated to helping women come out of sex slavery, which ranges from trafficking to prostitution.

That position brings me face to face with the reality of what we are doing to our women and children in the name of “victimless crimes.” It has made me aware of how our culture glorifies pimps, excuses johns and victimizes the women and children these predators use and degrade.

Refuse To Do Nothing was written by two women, Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim, who had heard similar stories and found that they had to “refuse to do nothing” about the suffering present-day slavery wreaks on both the victims and the victimizers.

I recommend this well-researched book. Instead of just telling us how horrible the problem of present-day slavery is, the book gives simple, do-able ideas for actions that ordinary people can take to help in the fight to end it. There is nothing over the top in any of the ideas these women provide. Each of them is simple, easy to do and, if enough of us do them, effective.

Slavery ended in Great Britain and America largely as a result of Christians, particularly Christian women, who understood the Gospel claim that every human being is beloved of God. They could not abide the contradiction of Christian people owning and using other human beings as chattel.

That understanding is just as true today as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries. Then as now, slavery was big business. Avarice and sloth fueled slavery just as avarice, sloth and lust fuel it today.

The idea that prostituted women and children are somehow less than fully human is the basic philosophical underpinning of sex trafficking and prostitution in our world today. The authors of this book rightly identify that sex slavery would go away if men stopped buying women and children. I think that most men would stop buying women and children if they saw what they were really doing.

It is so easy for any one of us to become someone else’s nightmare. All we need to do is subscribe to the world’s opinion that there are human beings who are less than human and we may do to them what we please with no moral harm to ourselves.

However, this idea of the disposable human is entirely opposed to the message of the Gospels. It refutes the meaning of Calvary, when Our Lord died for each one of us. There can be no worthless people to anyone who truly believes the Gospels of Christ.

We have an obligation to the God Who made us to treat one another as fully human. When we do less than this, we separate ourselves from Him in a profound and deeply sinful manner.

I recommend Refuse To Do Nothing to everyone who has a heart for the Gospel value of human life.

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Human Trafficking and Child Labor: Raid of Indian Sweatshop Frees Slaves as Young as 8

The following Yahoo News article describes a raid on a sweatshop in India where enslaved children, some as young as 8 years, were forced to make Christmas decorations.

Many of these decorations are being sold on eBay. Read the excerpt of the Yahoo News article below for tips on how to avoid buying them yourself. Watch the video on the link at the end of the excerpt for more information.

Police and child advocates broke padlocks and busted down doors in a surprise raid of a sweatshop in India, only to find a group of children imprisoned who had been forced to make Christmas decorations.

The children were kept in rooms approximately six feet by six feet and had been forced to work up to 19-hour days making the decorations, which advocates believe may have been intended to be sold on the cheap in the United States.

Human rights group Global March for Children led the raid, but also got help from former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who now serves as the United Nations special envoy for global education.

The 14 children who were freed are now in the process of being reunited with their families, who are scattered across India.

Brown released video to ABC News and Yahoo! News revealing what he says were the illegal conditions in which the children in Delhi were discovered.

“There is no parent in the world who would ever want their child to be subjected to conditions that you see in these films of children in dingy basements, without air, without food, without proper care, being forced into child labor for all these hours of the day. I think every parent who sees these films will want this practice brought to an end as quickly as possible.”

Child advocates say American consumers would likely never know the origin of goods made with child labor, which Brown says has become a global epidemic that needs to be solved.

In a push to garner more attention on the issue worldwide, Brown’s office released a new report today, “Child Labour and Educational Disadvantage – Breaking the Link, Building Opportunity,” which says 91 million children in the global workforce are younger than 12 years old.

In the case of the children rescued in Delhi, he says they were both injured and scared.

“Some of them are lacerated because they’re working with glass. And we found these children in this basement. They were not being paid,” he said. “They had been trafficked themselves. And they were making these Christmas decorations that were being sold in our shops and our web sites in the West.”

Priyanke Ribhu of Global March says many children in India are often lured away from their parents by gangmasters who befriend their parents in the remote villages where they live. The gangmasters reportedly promise parents their kids will be taken to a better place where they will be provided a real education and many great
opportunities they could not receive in their villages. Parents are also often told the children will be able to send money back home to help their families.

Far too often, Ribhu says, the children simply end up locked away behind padlocks only to work 17-,18-, even 19-hour days with no one to help them. Ribhu says holiday decorations similar to those discovered in the recent raid can be found on eBay and in other marketplaces online or in stores.

In addition, she says, the items are often sold off into a sophisticated network of suppliers that make it nearly impossible for retailers or consumers to know whether the goods they are purchasing have been made by child labor.

Ribhu warns, however, there are some tell-tale warning signs American consumers can be on the lookout for if they wish to avoid purchasing products made with child labor. First, she says, if the holiday decorations you are purchasing are not labeled with the country they are made in you might want to be concerned. Next, she says if they have an unusually low price and are marked as “hand made” it is another red flag.

Ribhu also warns to be cautious when examining “hand made” items that are also marked as being made in India.

While child labor was largely outlawed in the United States following the industrial revolution more than 100 years ago, Brown told ABC News and Yahoo! News that India has yet to ban child labor itself. He says currently, the country only has a ban on hazardous working conditions, but he wants to pressure the government to immediately take action to protect children there. (To see a video and read more of this Yahoo News story, go here.)

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Miracle Story: Sometimes You Don’t Have to Ask

I almost decided not to post this particular miracle story. It is so incredible that just by sharing it I open myself up to charges of being naive and soft-headed.

I finally decided to go ahead because I don’t think God intended for it to be kept a secret. It is the story of God’s direct intervention in the life of one of the least of these. I wish I could tell the whole story; of the rescue and tremendous experience the girl who tells this has gone through. But I can’t.

When you spend time with those who were the most completely lost, you find the most intense faith.

This miracle happened to a victim of sex trafficking from India.

The young woman who tells it was taken as she was walking to school when she was around 7 and put in a brothel. She suffered terrible things which I will not go into here. She was confined in a tiny room and forced to have sex with many men each day. Her life was mostly that room and her tormentors. She had never heard of Jesus Christ in her young life.

She was alone in the room at one point, and she said that she saw a spot of glowing light in front of her. Then, she saw a man in the light who told her “I am Jesus and I will take care of you.” She did not know who this Jesus was, but she did understand that she was in the presence of God. In the face of every objective criteria to the contrary she believed Him when He said “I will take care of you.” Through a series of incredible events, she ended up here in Oklahoma, free from her captors, and living a new life.

When she talks about this experience, her face glows. Her life, even more than her words, are a testimony to the redemptive power of God’s love. She is going to school, and plans to be a missionary to the trafficked girls in her native India.

Jesus went into a brothel, into the pit of one of our worst man-made hells, and reached out to this young girl. She didn’t pray. She didn’t ask for Him to come to her. She didn’t know Who He was.

It’s an incredible story and I offer you no proof. Believe it or don’t. All I can say is that those who know this young woman believe it. They see the proof in her life and rock-solid faith; in her unwavering purpose to bring Jesus to everyone she meets. She was rescued to be a rescuer.

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