Just over a week ago Chelsea King, a pretty straight A student from an upper middle class family, parked her car and went for a jog in a nearby park. She never came home. One week later her body was discovered in a shallow grave near the water's edge. It appears she was raped and murdered.
About one year ago 14 year old Amber Dubois went missing on her way to high school one morning. Her remains were also discovered this week. Her picture still looks out from every shop window. The trees downtown are still tied with tattered ribbons that beg, "Bring Amber Home."
Public outcry over these two girls has been what you would expect, vocal and warm. Helicopter searches, prayer vigils, networks of people banding together out of care and concern for these girls and their families. People wept when Chelsea's body was found. I know kids who went to school with her, her death has shocked them, as it has shocked many.
I can't imagine the anguish her parents have experienced. It's a pain I never want to know first hand. No one does. The sympathy, the support, the public way this has affected people is exactly what it ought to be over the life of a young girl so abruptly and violently ended. People are angry and sad and shocked that it could happen to someone so close to home.
I don't want to in any way diminish the pain and the response to such an occasion, but I can't help wondering. Would they care so much if she weren't a pretty white girl from an upper middle class family?
The average age of a prostitute in San Diego is 13. Often she is trafficked here from Mexico with the promise of love, or a good job. Or she's just kidnapped. I wonder where the search helicopters and prayer vigils are for them.
Where are the compassionate well intentioned people springing into action on behalf of little girls in Asia, 10 years old or younger, sold as sex slaves and raped repeatedly night after night until they die?
What is it about people that makes it possible to ignore such things until it happens in their own backyard?
Unless something is personal, it's easy to ignore. Unless you can imagine it happening to your own child, friend, sister, neighbor, it doesn't seem real.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think the response to this tragedy is anything other than what it ought to be. This should be how people react. I just think that every girl who is raped and sold and killed should get the same response, the same reaction. They could all be our own daughters, sisters, friends.
There are girls out there who aren't dead yet, who need the rallying force of people who care. Will they get it? Will they be saved? Will enough people care enough to take action? Or will they go back behind their comfortable middle class walls and community gates when the shock wears off and forget, or try to forget, and ignore the fact that this kind of thing happens every day, to girls all over the world and just a few miles away. They may be less photogenic or newsworthy, not straight A students or from the right demographic, but aren't they worth remembering all the same?
Want to do something for a girl, right now?
Here are a few places that work constantly to keep girls safe and out of the sex trade.
The Charis Project-We have homes for at risk orphaned children in Thailand where they can grow up in safety, and never be sold. Children are sold all the time in Thailand.
Compasio-Safe homes for street children in Mae Sot and homes for prison babies.
Hope for the Nations Thailand-Safe houses for unmarried girls who are pregnant. They teach them a trade and give them the skills to raise their babies and be single parents in a culture where it is especially hard.
Love146-Rescue and rehabilitation homes for girls who used to be prostitutes.
International Justice Mission-They work with local law enforcement to run sting operations on brothels and pimps in countries where law enforcement is overwhelmed by the problem of child prostitution.
Not for Sale- More than 80,000 people are trafficked through the US every year.
You can educate people. Most aren't aware that it happens. No it isn't polite conversation, not something people are comfortable talking about over dinner. It should make people uncomfortable. We should never be able to hear such news without squirming and being moved by it. I refuse to believe that most people are cold enough to do nothing once they really know, and know there is something they can do. But how will they understand if no one tells them? Until it becomes your daughter that you imagine in that position, your sister, your niece, your neighbors kid, it's something far away, distant, and unreal. You and I can help to make it personal and relevant, and motivate people to do something and change things. I believe that. I have to.