Last fall I participated in something called the Human Library.
The Human Library is an international organization and movement that first started in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2000. It aims to address people’s prejudices by helping them to talk to those they would not normally meet. The organisation uses a library analogy of lending people rather than books
Ronni Abergel – Founder of The Human Library
In July while waiting for one of my favorite events of the year, patriotic pops and fireworks to start. I was scrolling through my social media feeds. I saw that a few of my friends were participating in a Human Library in Fort Wayne. I emailed a summary of my child marriage story and asked them if they thought my story would be interesting. The following month I sat at a table and shared my story with total strangers. The human connection that I felt was electric and inspiring. I told my story and answered questions but the distribution of information went both ways. I had ” readers” share their pain and struggles with me too! There were many tears and I had the opportunity to encourage so many people to keep going, keep walking the path to recovery. None of them had experienced the pain and shame of child marriage, but many of them had experienced immense pain, loss and grief.
A question I kept getting asked was, ” does this happen in Indiana”? Since I lived in California at the time of my child marriage and was actually married in Mississippi I didn’t know the answer to that question. I also heard a lot of people tell me , ” you are a human trafficking survivor”. I hadn’t thought about that before. I began to look at it from that view and not only learned more about child marriage outside of my own experience, but that its much worse than I realized. In the last year I have looked at child marriage from several different angles, spoke with many people, organizations and child marriage survivors. I have reviewed data, literature and legislation. As I looked more and more into the issue I realized a few things: Not much has changed in the 23 years since it happened to me. The data on it sucks and is not even close to reflective of the reality of the issue. There are many layers to the issue. I HAVE to do more than I have been.
The results are this, yes it happens in Indiana. It is much bigger and more horrific than I knew. Not enough attention is being given to it. Most people do know about it, how harmful it is and that it is happening in their community. Law enforcement, judges, clerks, social services organisations, legislators and government agencies do not know how often it is happening or what to do. This is not just about me or my story any longer. The conversation HAS to grow, these agencies need to be educated. Their must be more resources for victims and survivors. The data collection is shit, and this cannot be kept in the shadows and ignored any longer.
I cannot fit everything that I have done and learned in the last year into one blog. In the coming weeks and months I will release this information on weekly bases as much of it is still being formed. I will also start a news letter to highlight where things stand, progress made, who is helping and what needs to be done. Sign up to receive this news letter in your inbox and follow along.