Just a heads' up. This post is not going to be pretty, so stopping while you're at it would be a good suggestion. For real. I am infuriated and repulsed and deeply saddened by an issue destroying the place I once called home.
Rhode Island is the place of my roots. There is a level of comfort here in the coming back. The fierce ocean waves, gritty sand in between my toes, drinking a Del's lemonade, clam cakes. There are the carousel rides, the cliffwalk, Pawsox games, waterfires. I love this place. Like really love it.
And yet I am coming to realize that this is not the home that some residents ever know. Their home is their prison. They are victoms of trafficking. Sure, in some cases prostitution is a choice. In other cases, women and children are bought and sold without any consent. Every freedom that I know to be true is lost to a pimp and politics who count their cash.
Rhode Island just got ratted out by a 16 year old runaway who was permitted to strip for cash. You've probably heard all about it. Turns out, she's allowed by law to continue. Even Vegas prohibits child abuse. You've got to be at least 21 to work in a club there. Not in RI. I suppose she didn't rat out the state after all.
If that weren't horrific enough, Rhode Island permits indoor prostitution. It is the only remaining state that sanctions it. Providence is littered with clubs, but so are small town communities. Massage parlors have infested the state and will continue to do so if these laws are not changed.
Since the seedier side of RI has broken into the news, the media has had a heyday. A recent clip on Fox news shows Bill O'Reilly shaking his head and laughing at the loopholes in the law. He is quoted as saying, "They might want to fix it up there. You might want to fix it in the Ocean State."
Come on now. The segment was almost portrayed as an advertisement for traffickers and predators. Was there no better way of highlighting this problem than through sarcastic laughter? How can anyone have the gall to laugh when children and teenagers are being abused? Maybe the attention was beneficial if it infuriated people. But only if it infuriated them to do more than shake their heads.
Are we just not getting it? Do we not care? If Rhode Island doesn't change its legislation soon, this state's problems are going to amplify across the nation and world. As it is, three neon x's are screaming to offenders that there's freedom to be found here. Freedom for offenders. Modern day slavery for the offended.
As this state continues to reap profits from the industry, it is also going to reap a sludge of problems. Prostitution ramps up crime, is inherently debasing, destroys families and communities, and preys on our next generation. Individuals enslaved to their traffickers undergo severe physical and psychological abuse, are forced into drug and alcohol abuse, and are at high risk for deadly disease. It sickens me to no end that children are trafficked to my home to know no other life but this.
Now that you've read this rant, I'm sure you're sorry. I told you it was ugly. I've ruined your morning, upset your stomach, stolen happy for today. I didn't mean to. I just needed to speak up to someone, for someone. And you were caught in the crossfire. Sorry.
Writing this will have done nothing to stop these injustices. I know that. They're words on a computer screen. But it's how I could find peace with my pillow for tonight.
I don't know where to begin to deal with this. But I know people who do: my friend Court, International Justice Mission, and oh yeah - Jesus. (Courtney runs with only the best.)
Someone once said, "This world is not mine to save, but I can serve the mission of God Who has already done so." Amazing words to live by. Now to figure out how. I guess I've got a lot of figuring out to do.