2021 Blog

Those who taught us to drive

If you grew up in a similar environment as mine, your mom and dad taught you how to drive in some relatively empty parking lot. Mine was at our town’s soccer field. No one was ever around, but I remember being continuously embarrassed.

You spent several days practicing, and then took to driving around neighborhoods (very slowly) and eventually, in a state of complete panic, you tried to parallel park.

Your dad took you to a parking lot and coached you time and time again. You likely cried a time or two.

Finally, you turned 16 – you sat in a car with a stranger for a grueling length of time that feels like longer than it really is. You drove around, you sweat through your shirt, and for a moment you completely forgot how cars work. But after all that, you were lucky, you passed.

Your parents were rightly concerned about your safety when you sat behind the wheel for the first day on your own. They had witnessed the learning curve, they knew it hadn’t been easy, yet they let you take off – driving yourself to school for the first time. It was liberating.

“Many parents don’t trust their own sixteen-year-old to drive their car, pick their own “good enough” friends, or stay home alone for the weekend without hosting a party.”
-Girls Like Us,
Rachel Lloyd

My life is one of great privilege and of great opportunity. My parents loved me and taught me and guided me and made me feel safe in my home and made me feel confident enough to drive a car on my own.

They encouraged me, they showed me my worth, they let me choose to get my license on my 16th birthday. They let me choose my friends, my extra-curricular activities, and they let me stay home alone.

Choice is something I’ve always had – I chose to go to college, I chose what to Major in, I chose what experience I wanted to have each summer, I chose what jobs to apply for after graduation, I chose to apply to Pedal, I’m choosing to move after this year, I choose where to live, what to eat, who to be friends with – the list goes on and on.

“Yet interestingly, I’ve met lots and lots of adults who feel that a sixteen-year-old is completely mature enough to be considered fully capable of making the choice to be in the sex-industry.”
- Girls Like Us,
Rachel Lloyd

Every single one of these decisions, these choices, has only been made possible by the environment in which I was raised. If your parents also taught you to drive, reflect with me here…  what privilege was it to have parents who sat with you for hours and through the tears for the sole purpose that you could drive yourself to school your Sophomore year? So you could drive to soccer practice after school and go to Sonic before games?? So, basically you could be marginally more independent?

Love and compassion and understanding and patience are all shown in such vast amounts when your parents teach you how to drive.  

With love and compassion, understanding and patience we are well-rounded, we are adaptable. Even further, we can understand when someone doesn't love us, when someone is using us, when someone is betraying us. We are able, in many instances, able to choose what is right for us. And when we make ‘bad choices’ (and even in the best environments those will happen often) we are able to fall back on people who care, who love us - those who taught us to drive.

What a privilege we have. What opportunity.

Those we are riding for often aren’t as lucky. Their choices are limited, dimmed by the opportunities provided to them. Maybe their parents couldn’t treat them the way they deserved, maybe they were never shown patience and safety, maybe they don’t know what it looks like to be unconditionally loved.

- 42% of survivors surveyed had been in the foster care system
- Only 38% of survivors surveyed had lived with their fathers growing up
- 80% of those trafficked by a family member were 10 years of age or younger
Survivor Insights,
Thorn
27% of sex trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline were instances of familial trafficking
- Polaris Project, 2018 Fact Sheet

They likely don’t know what it feels like to be part of a family that has the patience to sit with them in the soccer field parking lot as they practiced parking and parking and parking and parking.

“After being introduced, traffickers groom their victims. This is the start of a psychologically coercive process that makes victims believe the trafficker cares deeply for them, wants to take care of them, would never hurt them, and is not forcing them into the Life.”
- Survivor Insights,
Thorn

Why is it that we are surprised when their ‘choices’ seem like bad ones, like they don’t care about their futures?

They often don’t have much of a choice at all. Even if provided with ample choices – how would they know what is best for them?

“It’s an unwise choice to meet a stranger in person whom you’ve only met on MySpace, not brilliant decision making to get into someone’s car when you barely know them; nor is it a great idea to run away from home with six dollars in your pocket and nowhere to go. Yet none of these “choices” is the same thing as “choosing” to be in the commercial sex industry – even if they end up leading down that path.”
- Girls Like Us,
Rachel Lloyd

Let us recognize the difference in our lives and theirs. Let us reflect on the terrible decisions we made in our youth, and let us appreciate whatever support we had in those seasons. Most importantly, let us never again stand for someone saying, “Well they chose that life for themselves.” Instead, let us remind them that they are children, worthy and deserving to be shown the type of love reflected when parents teach their kids how to drive.

This is why we ride.

August 7, 2022
by 
Rachel Johnson

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