When I jumped on board of The Diamond Heart Foundation team it was clear to me this was an organization that saw a hole in the movement of opposition to sexual exploitation, which is what made it so enticing. Sexual exploitation is not a common topic brought up in our culture because it’s uncomfortable. It is painful to acknowledge that 88% of pornography scenes contain violence against women, that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, likely before they are 18, and that our hyper-sexualized culture feeds these statistics. The world is ravenous for power, sexual gratification, money, greed, and more often than not at the expense of others. It hurts us to think about these statistics and stories; it is easier to remain in ignorance. Something I learned early on is the concept of pluralistic ignorance, a social psychology term that refers to a situation in which a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but incorrectly assume that most others accept it, and therefore go along with it. At Diamond Heart we talk about this concept a lot and believe this is largely why it’s such a big issue, we allow there to be a demand. When we don’t speak out, it is just as harmful. We are allowing child pornography to impact the lives of children of all ages around the globe, we are allowing people to be bought for sex, we are advocating for all of these abuses when we do not stand up against them.
Social protest is an important piece of history in many of today’s cultures, if we had not taken a stand throughout our history where would the human race be now? It allows us to stand for issues that matter, and many of us are lucky enough to live in situations where this is a right… But I ask you to think, what about the ones who have had that right taken away? What about the small voices, too young, too ashamed? The ones who are afraid to speak out because it could mean harm, or even death, for them? How long will we allow this harm to come to people, even if it is not directly impacting us? I assure you, someone you know has suffered from sexual harm in some way whether you know it or not. Think about your most treasured relationships, would you take a stand for them? It’s no difference to me. Whether it is my partner, or my sister, or the little girl I met at the bus stop, or the story I read online, or the ones I know are out there suffering in silence, they deserve my voice. They need me to say something for them, they need me to care, and they need you too.
This is what Diamond Heart stands for. It is a symbol that represents freedom from ALL forms of sexual exploitation. It is something we can all wear, share, and show to others to let them know we will no longer tolerate these injustices. Every single one of us can show we stand with everyone who has been impacted, simply by utilizing the symbol and spreading the message of opposition, however that looks for us. I know for me it has been a great way to start conversations and let others know this is an issue I am passionate about, and often they very much care about it as well. I have been able to point others to resources to get them more involved, to show them the research, to assist them in seeking healing for their own lives, it has truly been incredible.
This symbol takes a stand for so many people I hold near and dear, I cannot even begin to explain the tragedies I have heard over my lifetime. I know so many whose quality of life has suffered tremendously because they have been impacted by the harms of sexual exploitation. I have worked in a wilderness therapy program where the majority of clients had faced this, I’ve been a case manager for trafficking victims, I’ve volunteered with youth and listened to story after story of wrongdoing. I’ve met many acquaintances who learned I cared about their story and found comfort in having a listening ear for a minute, but a listening ear is no longer enough for me. I refuse to be silent, I must speak out, I have to take a stand, for all of them, and for me.
I am asking you; will you stand with Diamond Heart now, in the next year, and in the years to come? We must overcome the shame and discomfort that comes with these conversations, because those who have been affected need us to. We can no longer allow them to suffer in silence, help me break the barriers. Share the Diamond Heart, support like-minded organizations, speak out, get involved with this cause, because it is something that impacts all of us, and all of us deserve better than this.
-Nina Lawson, Program Manager at The Diamond Heart Foundation