‘Was I a good mother?’

MamasnowThese were my mother’s final words before she died from cancer the day after Thanksgiving twenty-one years ago. She was helpless in a hospital bed and I just sat there wishing I never had to leave. I knew I would never see her again after that moment. I had to say goodbye to her on Thanksgiving day because I knew she would be gone soon and I just couldn’t keep coming back to the hospital day after day. I needed this to be over. I couldn’t keep watching her wither away.

She asked that question because, no, she wasn’t a “good mother” in her early years. She had not protected me from abuse and exploitation at the hands of an immediate family member. And yet, I have come to understand she truly did the best she could. Her mother had died when she was 16 and she was trapped with her abusive father who then married a woman who, literally, hated my mother. Even when my mother tried to leave after high school, she was not allowed to go.

And so, from an early age, my mother was determined that I would be the one to leave. I would graduate from college five months after she died and then move to Boston with friends. She waited to tell me her last bone marrow transplant did not work until after I had registered for classes. Otherwise, she knew I would stay with her. While her father was determined to keep her, she determined I had to go.

The season’s first snow was falling in the hospital parking lot as I left for the last time. I remembered the smell and that first biting chill of winter. Now I always think of my mother during the first snow, even if the month is October…December…doesn’t matter. That seasonal “first” belongs to remembering how much my life changed that day.

Not only did I say goodbye to my mother, I also ate my final holiday meal with her abusive family. After I left the hospital, I drove to her father’s house where people could only ask me to “pass the peas” as I sat at the dinner table sobbing. Everyone knew I had just come from the hospital, but not a word was said. Such silence was definitely fitting amongst a family trapped in intergenerational cycles of abuse and neglect. When I walked out the door after dinner, I knew I would never have to endure another holiday celebration with those relatives, and I never have. For that I am eternally grateful.

For the longest time I loathed the season, and understandably so. Not only did I “relive” losing my mother, I was inevitably invited into other families’ homes as the orphan with no place to go. While I certainly didn’t like feeling like a charity case, the isolation of being alone on that day was physically painful. I not only missed my mother, I missed the familiarity of her holiday desserts and watching movies together all day.

Now Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Over many decades of healing and “moving on,” I have built a tremendous life for myself with phenomenal family and friends. Each year we spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents by the sea. I always take a walk by the ocean the day after Thanksgiving to honor my mother. I could not have made it this far in life if I hadn’t had such a “good” mother.

KP

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Yes, I Wrote a Press Release

vintage-typewriterA press release about my crowdfunding is essential for a successful campaign, according to a fellow trafficking survivor who successfully crowdsourced a project. So here goes:

Human Trafficking Survivor Crowdfunding Ph.D.

Kate Price, research scientist and child sex trafficking survivor, launches crowdfunding campaign to help support her lifelong dream of earning a Ph.D. Research will help stamp out commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).

Wellesley, MA November 5, 2014 – Researcher and child sex trafficking survivor Kate Price is seeking support through crowdfunding to earn her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston). She works as a program associate at the Wellesley Centers for Women, a research and action institute at Wellesley College.

In Price’s early childhood and throughout adolescence, an immediate family member sold her for sex in order to support his drug addiction. She was sold to men at truck stops, at parties, and within her own home. Price’s family repeated intergenerational cycles of addiction, mental illness, poverty, and violence.

Price survived that upbringing through education, determination, and the encouragement of a few supportive adults and friends. Price’s mother had wanted to go to college, but her abusive father told her she could learn as much at the factory where she worked as she could in college. She was determined her daughter’s life would be different. Price’s mother died of cancer six months before Price’s college graduation and her dying wish was for Price to move to Boston and go to graduate school.

Price studied the commercial sexual exploitation of children while earning her master’s degree in Gender and Cultural Studies at Simmons College. The social scientist in her needed to understand not only what had happened to her, but why and how. Fellow researchers and anti-trafficking advocates found her observations and answers to these questions forward thinking and valuable, which led to academic publications, presentations around the country, and consultation on clinicians’ toughest trafficking cases.

Earning a Ph.D. in Sociology at UMass Boston will allow her to cast an even wider net in ending child sex trafficking. “Very little scientific-based research exists on child sex trafficking,” said Price.  “I want to contribute evidence-based knowledge to inform best-practices for programs and legislation. Recently, my work, literally, helped advocates rewrite a Florida state child sex trafficking bill. I am so honored.”

Price has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $66,000, which would help cover $20,000 for three years of graduate school plus the gofundme.com fees. “I looked for people to create a survivor fellowship but there was nobody, so I looked to crowdsourcing,” said Price.  “The response has been wonderful. I’ve been humbled because I also want to raise awareness that survivors need support beyond the crisis point.”

To learn more about Price and her campaign, www.gofundme.com/supportkpadvocacy

Contact:
Kate Price
kprice@wellesley.edu
www.kpadvocacy.com
@kpadvocacy

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My Work, Literally, Changed FL State Legislation

tumblr_myili1mBuP1skrctjo1_500Wellesley Survivor Has Story Go National, published in Hometown Weekly, 10/12/14

Several months ago, Wellesley resident Kate Price, who was featured in a Hometown Weekly article in September, went public with her story of childhood sexual exploitation at the hands of an undisclosed family member.

Price has decided to continue her research on sex trafficking in a Ph. D. program at UMass Boston and began a crowdsourcing campaign to help offset the cost. As of this week, Price had already raised more than six percent (more than $4,000) of her goal.

“I feel like we really have a movement here,” said Price in a phone interview last week. “I jumped from really striving for four percent and I jumped to over six in a day and that’s really encouraging to me.”

Her story has spread from the local area to national media outlets, in part thanks to her husband’s connections in the sports world. Chris Price covers the New England Patriots for WEEI and in October his connections led to an interview with Sports Illustrated writer and author Jeff Pearlman, whose popular “The “The Quaz” provided Price with much greater reach for her story.

“That interview went so well; it could not have gone any better,” she said. “It definitely provided a lot of support and a lot of recognition that I really appreciated.”

Price added, “It’s been great to be able to send people the link to the Jeff Pearlman interview and links to other press that I have done. It certainly shows that I’m out there and it gives people a great base to say this is a great story.”

The Pearlman interview picked up momentum on social media with popular sports and media personalities, such as Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, spreading the story to their followers. Soon after the interview with Pearlman, Price got her first $1,000 donor.

In addition to the interview, Price has been speaking at events, such as a Take Back the Night in Chattanooga, Tenn. and at a policy conference in Jacksonville, Fla. for the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

As she continues to tell her story, Price has seen that other survivors have been more willing to come forward – not necessarily to share the way that she has with a wide audience, but to receive services that will assist in breaking the cycle of exploitation and abuse. Price noted that the day after the Take Back the Night event, in which she joined with several other speakers to share their experiences, “multiple people” went to the local counseling service to receive support.

“For me that’s the most rewarding, when people who may have been silent in the past and are really suffering in isolation really feel like they can say something and that they are going to get help,” she said.

“That’s why I continue to speak out.”

While in Florida, Price also received news that a paper she had written had been directly instrumental in helping decide a legislative issue. A Florida lawmaker was trying to add a provision to the state’s Safe Harbor Law that would require that children be locked up while receiving services.

As Price noted, the idea was for the child’s benefit so that it would ensure services would be received, but she explained that running away was a natural aspect of breaking from exploitation and that the provision would “re-victimize” the child. Her paper gave opponents to the provision language to help defeat it.

“It’s amazing that my work can literally help kids from being locked up while they’re receiving services,” said Price. “That’s so moving to me and for me it’s like okay my career is done; I have done what I set out to do.”

“When people ask why am I doing this, well I know exactly why.”

Price’s crowdsourcing campaign is continuing. For more information or to donate, visit www.kpadvocacy.com or www.gofundme.com/supportkpadvocacy.
— Hometown Weekly Staff (reporter, Josh Perry, @josh_perry10)

“I want her to be my best friend.”

55a735ecea79d15565a3c1dde8e25ec0A student texted this sentence to her sorority sister about me while I was recently giving a sexual violence awareness talk at their university. Those words are, literally, one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me. The young woman who received the text told me this particular friend who wanted to be my BFF “usually doesn’t come to things like that.”

“Things like that” are exactly the events we need all students to attend. One in five young women will be sexually assaulted during college and sorority members are “74% more likely to experience rape than other college women.” Silence and denial that “it won’t happen to me” put students that much more at risk.

I sometimes get nervous that people don’t want to hear what I have to say. My presentations are filled with graphic examples of sexual violence and discrimination. I talk about what is inherently wrong with our culture where men and boys are expected to put down and physically harm women and girls in order to feel like they belong among “real men.”

Such “male bonding” over degrading and hurting women is particularly endemic of fraternities and sports teams — the ultimate campus “alpha dog” clubs. I strongly disagree with some advocates calling for the closing of fraternities. Men are given so few places  where they can openly express emotional ties to other men. That said, we must change how men are allowed to bond in these organizations beyond humiliating other men through hazing and abusing women with rape and assault.

Still, I worry I alienate people as an “angry feminist” and “man hater” when I name patriarchy as the primary fuel of our dominance and control-based society. I fear people see me as pointing fingers instead of breaking the silence of sexual violence, which is my ultimate intention. I want my speaking out to give space and agency to others who may be scared to do the same.

Thankfully, my intention was fulfilled at this speaking engagement. I learned multiple people sought services for sexual assault and violence the day after the event and, even though I already have a BFF, I certainly made a lot of new friends.