From a Mom's Perspective
by Jennifer Hardy, CMPS, Peer Support Coordinator
What is it like to experience being a mother while you are in the grips of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE)? This is a difficult and sensitive subject for myself and every survivor I know that is also a mom. Some have had more extreme circumstances than others, but I can tell you this one thing -the feeling is not a good one. The sense of shame and fear is the same. There is this torn feeling inside of wishing you could have done something different, yet knowing you cannot go back in time. There is the fear of how your circumstances may really affect your kids, but no way to know the future.
For me, being a mom had been my number one joy in life. My babies were my world. When the domino effect of my entry into CSE began, I had nothing but their very best in my mind and in my heart of hearts. What I was not able to see was the damage that was to come down the line. I thought all along that I would be 'out' before they knew what was going on and that I would somehow pull it all together before my daughter was 10. This was the magic number I had picked, thinking I could somehow become a better role model overnight, by sheer willpower. It did not work out that way. The downward pull, the abuse, and the addiction took a toll. It is very difficult to look your children deep in the eyes when you aren't even able to look at yourself in the eyes-because you see in them a part of you. And you know there has to be a better way. You just don't know how to get there; how to get unstuck. In that period of mostly numbness, this is the area I remember feeling the pain of, even physically. I wanted so much more for them. I wanted to be a confident and strong woman for my daughter to model. I wanted to be the type of lady my sons would want to find as partners one day. Yet, this was how I knew to provide.
The greatest gift I have received in recovery is being able to finally be in a place where I feel good again about being a mother. I have relationships with each of my kiddos today that are more than I ever imagined they would be. It has been a process, and it is still a process. I am working through the shame of what has been as well as the fear I have that I may have passed down the disease of addiction to them, but we are able to talk about it together. We have a closeness now that I cherish with all of my heart. It is a precious thing to hear them say they have respect for me or admire me. It melts me when they are the ones asking me to spend time with them instead of dodging me and being embarrassed of me. This is what I desired all along.
This is the hope I share with the ladies I have the privilege of serving that are mothers. The shame and fear ease. The relationships heal in time. The deepest pain becomes the deepest joy.