In October of 2010 during my junior year at Tufts, I was sexually assaulted on campus by a student from a different university. Too ashamed to burden my friends with the immediate aftermath, I turned to Tufts' counseling center and Health Services for some much-needed support. Thankfully, it also happened to be sexual assault awareness month at Tufts, and there were weekly events that allowed me to connect with other women on campus with similar experiences. I remember wordlessly sitting in the cold with an enraged yet loving friend. I remember attending a concert, lighting a candle on the Tisch roof, decorating a T-shirt, all in honor of victims of sexual assault. I remember waking up every morning wishing it was all just a very bad dream. Although I was physically present at these events, the me on the inside was not nearly ready to fully accept what had happened. For several months, I harbored such a fearful hatred toward men that I could not even begin a real journey toward recovery from rape.
Two months after the incident, I heard of an international non-governmental organization (INGO) called Love146, which exists to abolish child sex trafficking in North America, Asia, and Europe. I had no idea that such an atrocity as child sex trafficking continues to exist in the world today, not to mention in our own country. The phrase "child sex trafficking" alone was sickening enough — those three words should never have to be in the same sentence! I began to research and I quickly learned that over 1.2 million children are sexually exploited every year. And this horror is not limited to some ambiguous third-world country; it happens in our own backyard. In the United States, over 100,000 children are engaged in pornography or prostitution each year. According to Love146, the vast majority of trafficked and prostituted children in the U.S are either runaways or abandoned children. The average age of entry for girls and boys ranges from 11 to 14 years. And yes, children are constantly being lured and kidnapped into the sex trade in Massachusetts today.
My heart immediately went out to these enslaved children, who are often caught in a destructive cycle of poverty, lack of self-worth, drug addiction, and suicidal tendencies. I knew how significantly I had been affected by being raped at age 19, but I could not even imagine the same repulsive scene playing out on a 7 or 8-year-old child, up to 15 times a day. Though I was lucky enough to evade any potential consequences from the rape, such as contraction of STDs or an unplanned pregnancy, I realized there are innocent children growing up with these very consequences today. Young girls become impregnated by strangers and are forced to get multiple abortions per month. Some brothel owners use unspeakable methods, allowing them to continually and relentlessly sell the same young girl at the highest price of a virgin. Many of these young girls will die of AIDS. This is what is going on in some dark corners of the earth today. And it is not okay to settle for such a corrupted world.
What began as a "therapeutic project" for me to channel my anger toward misogynistic men has, over time, become a healthy and lifelong passion to stand up against a horrible humanitarian injustice. Over the past year and few months, I have been able to continue on my journey of healing from rape by starting the first movement of justice at Tufts solely focused on children affected by sex slavery. What I love about Love146 is that it places a huge emphasis on the possibility of full restoration for sex trafficking survivors. Love146 focuses on raising awareness on the issue of child sex trafficking, and raising funds for child survivors in aftercare programs. The Love146 Tufts Chapter's mission is to harness student potential on Tufts' campus to creatively and passionately raise awareness about the issue of child sex slavery.
Last spring, Love146 Tufts put on a benefit concert, spreading awareness to 250 students and raising over $1,000 for aftercare. Last fall, the group launched the Childhood Memories Project, raising awareness about child sex slavery by reminding participants that every child deserves to grow up with wonderful memories. Children should be cared for, they should be in a family where they are loved, but that is not what is happening to millions of children around the world today. Children are being taught that they are commodities to be sold, rather than human beings worthy of love. Love146 is about bringing life back to these children.
Child sex trafficking is certainly a heart-shattering and troubling issue, to say the least. I don't fight child sex trafficking because I think it is fun or because I like thinking about it all the time. I fight because my heart breaks for enslaved children. But out of our broken hearts will come change, compassion, and a fire for justice. If we celebrate our broken hearts, they will be our best tools in changing our world. Love146 Tufts will continue shedding light on child sex trafficking this semester through our second Annual Benefit Concert in March, and our Broken Hearts Valentine's Event this Thursday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in Sophia Gordon Hall.
Lastly, I know we don't come to Tufts aspiring to be apathetic, passive, disengaged citizens. We come to Tufts to learn how to tear across boundaries and change the world. We are so blessed to be in a position to fight for and empower those that do not yet have a voice. We have four short years at Tufts — they really do go by in a flash! Make sure you take the time to stand up for what you believe in.
And for all the victims of sexual assault or rape, know that you are not alone. Seek help from people you can trust. Keep looking forward — never look back. I'm not saying that becoming an abolitionist is the quick-fix step to true healing from sexual assault, but I can tell you that it has certainly helped me find hope in a situation that once felt hopeless. Love took my blindness toward human trafficking and spurred me into compassionate action. Love turned my brokenness into something worth celebrating. I'm not sharing this story to gain pity points, believe me — I can think of a hundred less humbling ways to get that sort of attention. I'm sharing this story because I have found that nothing restores the way that love can, and that is a story worth sharing. There is so much room for forgiveness in love. There is so much hope for restoration. What's the most powerful force on the planet? I know love is. And it's called Love146 for that reason.
Jane Jihae Yoon is a senior majoring in child development. She is one of the co-founders of the Love146 Tufts Chapter.