When we are created, knit together in our mother's womb, we are each equipped with a purpose. I believe there's a cry in our hearts the moment we're born to fulfill the purpose the Lord gave us. But if we're fortunate enough to be born, the battle begins immediately to keep us from achieving our perfect destiny.
The Battle to Destroy your Destiny
Unfortunately, so many children encounter this battle before they're equipped to understand what is happening and how to fight it. The key to how this war begins and takes us out before we've even started is secrets. It's what allows the evil root to fester and grow, the same root that leads to sex trafficking, abortion, promiscuous lifestyles, suicide – you name the societal ill and the symptom we're throwing our money and time and resources at, and I'll tell you the root to all of it is the secret of childhood sexual abuse.
It starts when children are so young that they aren't even prepared to see it coming. This abuse often enters their lives at the age of 3-5 years old, usually at the hands of someone who is supposed to love and protect them.
When a child is abused at such a young age by a person who is supposed to be their safe space – maybe a father, brother, uncle, or even a pastor – love gets twisted with abuse. They're used and defiled in the wrong way. But as it's happening, they're being told, "This is our little secret. You know you're my special girl, you're my special boy. No one would understand."
So they keep the secret because they don't know any better. They don't have the tools that we learn as we get older or the freedom in knowing we can say something or get out of that situation. A child's mind, in that moment, has entered a battle they aren't equipped to fight. And this happens again and again. We know that in America it affects 1 out of 3 little girls and 1 out of 5 little boys.
Another Pathway Stealing our Purpose
So that's the pathway of the secret of childhood sexual abuse, but the other pathway we see is the grooming and the open door for pornography that is also stealing our young children. Not only are our children groomed to find it acceptable because of its pervasiveness in culture, but consumers are being groomed to become buyers.
When I began working in the anti-trafficking industry 12 years ago, I think the average age was 11 or 12 that a little girl would post a naked selfie. Today, we work with law enforcement all around the country fighting online crimes, and they tell us the average age a child is posting a naked picture is now 7. Our children are being groomed by social media, with 1 out of 9 kids being approached right in their bedroom on their digital devices.
We don't even realize what's happening, but trafficking is the fastest-growing crime in America. The traffickers are ruthless because they can sell a child again and again. They're not a commodity that is consumed like drugs. We need to be paying attention, as we are the ones who can step in and say, "hey, what's happening?" We have to make sure we have our eyes open, and that we've had our own healing from whatever secret abuse we've never talked about so that we don't perpetuate the lifestyle of secrets.
No More Secrets
I was abused when I was younger by a favorite "uncle" who was a church worship leader, and so I kept the secret, and it changed everything in my life. It broke a part of me that was built on trust and faith and love. This led me on a dangerous journey because this is the only crime that, when it is done to you, you take on the guilt of having done something wrong. This is the sin of another person, but those against whom the sin was committed carry the shame and the burden. This needs to be turned around. We need to normalize speaking out about these things and doing away with the secrets and the shame that are destroying our children.
I've been working at this on a micro scale for the last 10 years, but now we are stepping back and looking at the macro. Why does this keep happening and why don't more people care? Why aren't we talking about it? It's because so many of us have our own wounds. We need to start speaking out in freedom, beginning with ourselves.
The sheer number of children being groomed and consumed in our world tells us we have to change everything. There's an awakening that has to happen, and I am encouraged that in some places, it is starting to. Judicial systems are changing so that 11-12-year-old girls are no longer being charged with prostitution. But we also need an awakening in our schools and churches, and it starts with us at home. If we still have a secret, if we are hiding something that happened to us, we need to bring it out in the open.
Research shows us that these things are repeated generationally until somebody flips a switch.
We need to stop turning a blind eye, even to pornography, thinking, "it's okay, it's over there, it's not affecting us." I've got news for you – it's affecting everyone in your circle. I cannot tell you how over the last decade, of all the sex trafficking stings we have been involved in – as many as 80 men in the lineup sometimes – there's always a pastor, there's always a teacher, there's always a local businessman. And you know what they say again and again from 18-80: "I don't know what happened to me," "I don't how this happened," "I'm not the type of person that buys sex with a child." We're watching the headlines day after day, seeing leaders fall because pornography is neurologically changing our pathways. It is affecting our children's brains, as addiction happens between the ages of 8-12.
We Need Cultural Change
If we don't change our culture and change our world and start talking about all these hard and uncomfortable things, we're going to lose our children. They're going to be groomed to think this is okay because cultural pornography is so pervasive in our society today. The porn that our kids are exposed to is defiling, degrading and abusive. And this is what they're being shown is an example of love. This is sex, not love. What happened to intimacy? Things have gotten so far from where they should be, but we hold the key. We have the ability to change the narrative, and we are so powerful.
We need to have our arsenal of weaponry ready, and that includes excavating the hidden places in our own lives. Once we have the freedom to address what needs to be exposed, then we can equip the next generation to find their freedom. We need to fight for them so they can rise up and fulfill the purpose that was deposited into them, to take their position in this world and change it. But we must first do our part to fight for them right now.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Bhupi
Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good is the founder and CEO of The Foundation United, a catalytic platform to end sexual exploitation and trafficking through systemic change. Fisher Good is a passionate pioneer and inspirational thought leader with a desire to expose the root issue behind sex trafficking -- childhood sexual abuse. Her book “Groomed” (HarperCollins, 2020) recounts her own story of loss, abuse, and triumph. Statistics and resources quoted above can be accessed at https://www.thefoundationunited.com/statsandresources.