Father, dad, pop, these are all names we call the guy who is supposed to protect us. The one who scares away the monsters from under our beds and in our closets, who lets us know it’s okay to be scared. He is supposed to be there to tell us that everything is alright. To tell us that the thunder is God bowling and that it’s okay to be afraid of the dark. The one who helps us learn to ride a bike, plays Legos and doll house with us for hours on end. For many of us, he is the man we want to marry when we are 5 and 6. As we get older and realize he’s Mom’s, we look for a guy who has similar qualities and he becomes the one we want to walk us down the aisle. He scares our boyfriends and makes sure we are brought home on time. He’s the one who worries about his little girls no matter how old or how far away we are. The one who checks every smoke detector in our dorm room move-in day at college. The one who wears his sunglasses so we won’t see the tears in his eye as he drives away the first time. The one who tells us there are real monsters in the world but we can’t let them win and we can’t ever become one.
As I was sitting at work today, going over surveys completed by survivors of sex trafficking, I came across one in particular that broke my heart. In fact I was almost brought to tears. When asked to identify her trafficker the girl simply put, family member. That alone saddened me. Families should be your backbone, the ones who love you when it might seem that others don’t. For 18 years she was used, abused, and sold from one man to the next. Her trafficker, her biological father. Our dads are not supposed to be the monsters, the ones that we fear. Yet there are young girls who are trafficked by their fathers. Dads are here to make the pain go away, not be the cause of it. Yet this girl was trafficked by the man who was supposed to take care of her. The man she should have been able to trust and receive unconditional love from. He used violence, force, coercion, verbal abuse, and manipulation to harm his daughter; his blood. He used his parental power to harm the little girl he should have been protecting. He broke her spirit and her self-esteem. He made her feel dirty, unloved, unwanted.
I thought about my dad, the guy I respect and love. The guy who took me to father daughter me senior year, who helped me buy a car, who I can drink a beer and talk about life with. Who is one of the people I admire the most, who has shown me what it means to stand up for something I believe in, who has shown me what a true man is like. I could not fathom the life this girl lived. The pain she must have felt, the utter betrayal. I feel so blessed to have, not only the father that I have, but my family.
So I ask all you girls to find your dad, give him a hug and thank him. And guys, remember when you become a dad, us girls adore you. When we are little we want our dad’s hugs, time, and love. We want to make him proud, want to hear him say he cares. We want him to be the one we can turn too when the monsters get too scary, not to be the monster.