As I pull on my leggings, I feel a heaviness in my core. A sense of dread. I sit on the ground and pull on my socks. Right foot – “I don’t want to.” Left foot – “Please don’t.” I grab my spin shoes and slip my feet in. As I tie the strings, the sobs well up in my body. “Please don’t go. I’m not good enough. And everyone can see.” The tears spill over. Hunched forward on my knees with my forehead steadied by the closet floor, the sobs consume me. Here I stay for what feels like a lifetime. The closet carpet a precarious cradle for my horrific release.
I knew that something was being triggered the day the man in my spin class changed the screen to show our percentages – how hard we were riding our bikes. There is a new system at the gym and now every rider’s statistics are shown on a screen in the front of the room.
I already knew my bike didn’t work right. I’ve known this since we got the new bikes. The faster I ride, the lower my watts. But now I am seeing it on the big screen and so is the entire class. My bike number “6” is the lowest number on the board. I’m pedaling as fast as I can. My RPM’s are at 140, but my watts are falling. Falling. The harder I try, the lower I go. And everyone can see. Everyone can see that I am worthless.
Now, as I put on my spin shoes, the little girl in me says “Please don’t go. Please don’t show everyone that I am worthless.”
How the past gives rise to the present
The stage is small. Portable. It looks like the series of boxes that they put in the mall at Christmas time for elementary students to stand on and sing their holiday tunes for over excited parents and grandparents. Only there are no festive feelings here. The room is dark. Lit by lamps that give off a bizarre red/golden light. I think it is because the lampshades are red. The room looks like what my adult mind would call a seedy cocktail lounge. There are spotlights facing the makeshift stage. There are no windows in this room. There are rows of chairs resembling the setup of a small chapel. The chairs in the back are simple folding chairs. The chairs in the front are the “good seats.” This is where the important people, the men with the big money, will sit. These seats are plush and look like something out of a hotel lobby. We are in a hotel. So maybe they were brought from the lobby.
There is a big screen behind the stage. A setup in the middle of the room is projecting images onto the screen. It is similar to what they have in my school. My teacher puts images of phonics, vocabulary words, or math problems on the platform and they magically appear on the wall at the front of the classroom. But there are no vocabulary words here. These images are of children. One of those children is me.
I would visit places like this many, many times throughout my life. But this time I am only 8. We have traveled a long way to get here. A man in dark pants and a weird green shirt tells me to remove my clothes. A woman in a skirt that is too short doesn’t give me a chance to respond. I’m scared that if she bends over, it will not cover her bottom. I am worried for her. She reaches to my side, grabs the hem of my dress and swiftly pulls it over my head. My arms automatically go straight up and I no longer feel like my body is even mine. She places her thumbs in the elastic of my panties and the man yells stop. She looks at him. He tells her to leave them on. That the buyers are likely to bid higher just by fantasizing about what is under my white panties with the lace trim. He points out the tiny pink bow on the front. He gently touches it and then touches himself and quickly moves back to the tripod and camera he has facing me.
My picture is above the stage. Along with the pictures of about a dozen other girls. We are all kept together in a room. There are girls much smaller than me. Maybe 5 or 6 years old. And several girls that are much older, 12 to 14. Everyone is mostly naked. The room we are in is just off the room with the chairs, now full of men. There are men sitting. Men standing. Men everywhere. There are numerous women too. But more men. The room we are in has a curtain as a door. The woman who removed my dress holds the curtain open and we can see our pictures on the wall. Beneath our pictures are numbers. There is a very pretty girl who is 13. I know because it says 13 below her picture. The man at the projector is constantly changing the numbers beneath our names. Not the number that is our age, but the number of our bid.
What we are worth.
I have played this game before. It never ends well. But I do know that it is best to be bought by one of the men in the front. They are rich. They will still hurt me, but the place will be nice. Most likely I will be fed. I will be allowed to clean up. It will hurt, I know. But it is less hurt than if one of the men in the back wins me. The men in the back are brokers. This means that they buy girls as cheaply as possible. Then take us to a place and resell us to as many men as they can in the time they are allowed. I glimpse my number. I am in the middle right now. Men are bidding on me. There are some girls that have much higher bids. And some that are a lot less. We are taken up onto the stage, one at a time. If you sell yourself right, your number will go up. I am not good at this. I freeze every time I get up there. Some men like this. They like that I am scared and it makes the number go higher. But most of the time I am not so much scared as I am just not really present. They do not like this. They do not want a girl that is detached.
I take my place on the stage. I hear the announcer say that my name is Bambi. “She is a fawn, a baby deer. She is not new. She has been in the biz since infancy. She knows what to do.” I don’t know what to do. I mean, I know what they want, but I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO. I can’t see the men very well from the stage because of the lights. I do not know what is happening on the screen. When I return to the room, I look through the curtain at the screen. My bid did not move much. The very young girls have high bids. The older girls have high bids. The man slips into the room and grabs me by the arm. “You are worthless. Nobody wants you the way you are. You have to do better. Try harder. Everyone can see that you aren’t even trying.”
I end up being sold to a man in the back row. He pays $350 for me. The man says that this is not even going to pay for our trip. The man who buys me takes me to a place where I am sold to approximately 35 men over a 2 day period. The other man then sells me to about a dozen more men over the next day and half. I am worthless. I have been raped over 45 times in 3 and a half days. But I am worthless. The more I am used. The less I am worth.
When we aren’t good enough
I’m not alone in this feeling. My situation was extreme, but the messages are always there, through our entire childhoods. Try harder. Work harder. Push harder. Get better grades. Score more points. Use better manners. Whatever the message, it is interpreted the same by our young minds – we aren’t good enough.
The people that love us the most, whose word we would take on everything, continually tell us how we aren’t good enough. And often it is well meaning. They just want us to be our best. They think they are preparing us for a successful future. But from this we draw the conclusion that we must not be good enough. We never will be.
But that is not truth. We are good enough. Each and every one of us. Just as we are. We are each created in the likeness and image of God. How could we not be perfect? And if we knew who we really are – the most magnificent, the most remarkable, the most splendid beings God has ever created – we would never doubt our worth.
That morning, in my closet, I sobbed and sobbed. I held that little girl in my heart. She is not worthless. I am not worthless. The number on that screen is just a number. It doesn’t matter what people think. I took on the belief I was not good enough because that was the message I was repeatedly given. But the truth is “enough” is an illusion. I may not be “good enough” for some because they simply do not deserve me. I am perfect for those that do.
And so are you.
Have you ever wished you could break the chains of fear and step fully into love? Shanon and Kim share their journey of healing from trauma, abuse, and programming through acceptance and love. Do you want to step out of fear? Subscribe and follow their journey.