A Mother’s Heavenly Perspective and a Daughter’s Earthly One
By Jennifer Marino and Mary B. Love
Interview By: Mary Wiese, Volunteer Development Team Member- StreetLightUSA
The experience of child sex trafficking and the long road to recovery can be very challenging to put into words, but that is exactly what Jennifer Marino does in her book Both Sides Now: A Mother’s Heavenly Perspective and a Daughter’s Earthly One. She shows us how the trauma of child sex trafficking can happen and what the path to recovery and triumph can look like. We had the privilege of talking with Jennifer about her book and about her support for StreetLightUSA.
Jennifer, what inspired you to write a book about child sex trafficking?
I was a victim of sex trafficking. I had a story to tell. It took me forty-five years to tell it.
What are the main points that you want readers to glean from your book and what audience are you trying to reach?
I want to make people aware that this isn’t a new problem we have in society. It happened to me fifty years ago. I also want girls to know what can happen when they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our decisions have consequences. I was on Twitter the other day and saw a fifteen-year-old soliciting a good time. It broke my heart. I knew she was asking for a lot of men to respond to her tweet, which was very inappropriate. My message is:
Your early life experiences do not need to define you nor be the end to your story.
It’s a story about what you find when you go looking for yourself. I had to write it for myself first.
There is hope for all of us. No matter what your story is, we can change it by changing our behavior. Our loved ones, including our maker, are watching over us, but we have to make better choices.
Tell us what you hope to accomplish with your book?
I don’t know. I am leaving the results of my book in God’s capable hands.
I wrote it first for myself and so my loved ones would know my story. I wasn’t going to publish it, but the Spirit nudged me to do so. If I can change one person’s life, it would have been worth the effort. It took me five years to write and was so healing.
I wish everybody would write their autobiography. It showed me patterns of behavior that kept coming up in my life until I changed them. It’s not 100% autobiographical. The first chapter and last chapter where I was in a coma, did not happen to me.
I call it Faction: Non-Fiction with a Twist.
How do you change the world? One person at a time. I hope you will allow me to give my book to the girls to show them there is hope for a better future. I wrote it for girls like me who had a rough start. If you can use my book in any way, I will donate them to you.
What was the hardest part about writing Both Sides Now and what was the most important thing you learned while writing it?
When you are a victim of sexual abuse, you become detached. I had to become more aware of what was going on with me by really leaning into my journey. I rewrote it at least ten times. Every time I rewrote it, I got closer and closer to what I was feeling. I could have continued to do that and make the book so much better, but it was going to take more time.
The character in your book, Jackie, lost her mother at a young age. Why did you decide to include the mother’s side of the story in your book?
I wanted to include my mother’s story because I wanted to get to know my mother as a woman. I felt like I really got to know her through my writing after interviewing her sisters and brothers. I also wanted to publish it with her. She is the other author named. We collaborated in spirit. I also felt that my back story was important.
What should people know about the issue of child sex trafficking?
That these girls, and unfortunately boys, who are not represented at StreetLightUSA, don’t have anywhere to go. That is why they are easy prey. They are targeted by sexual predators.
Jennifer, how did you learn about StreetLightUSA?
I was at Unity of Phoenix church and a gentleman from StreetLightUSA spoke afterwards for awareness and donations. I volunteered after I heard his message. We are snowbirds, so I couldn’t volunteer on a regular basis but I was allowed to have Life Coaching Classes for one winter several years ago.
Why are you passionate about StreetLightUSA?
I became passionate about their cause first. When I got to be there in person, I realized how many lives they are changing for the better. What a wonderful way for a young girl to realize that people do care.
What action can people take to end child sex trafficking?
I doubt it will ever go away completely but we can make a difference by supporting organizations like StreetLightUSA. There are few options when a minor is picked up by law enforcement. The fact that these girls don’t have to go into a foster home and can go where there are other girls like them is incredible. I am not saying foster care is bad, but they don’t specialize in care for sexually traumatized girls.
What can businesses, governmental agencies and medical organizations do to help end child sex trafficking?
Again, I doubt it will ever end, but awareness is key. Report it when you see something wrong. Find organizations who help sexually trafficked kids in your area and support them. Help with free counseling for the girls if you can’t afford to house them. America’s mental health system is broken. You have to have a lot of money to get emotionally supported. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on therapy, and it helped!! I’ve had every therapy known to man. I strongly recommend EMDR.
What advice would you give to parents and guardians regarding keeping their child safe from child sex trafficking?
We need to monitor where kids are going and who they are hanging out with, including monitoring the internet and television. I wasn’t able to have kids, but I told my stepsons when they were younger the reason why I ask is because I care. They both turned out to be great kids. Kids need to know someone cares.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you say and would it be the same advice you would give other young girls?
It would be advice from Jack Canfield’s Life Coaching which I gave to the girls I’ve talked with. It really helped me. Unity Church principles are weaved throughout his books. Things such as if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change - a concept also taught by Wayne Dyer. One Universal law is the law of attraction which means like attracts like. I needed to learn to think in a positive and productive way by changing the conversation in my head. The maker and creator of the Universe has given us these Universal Principles to learn from.
Thank you for what you do at StreetLightUSA!! It is an amazing organization that helps so much.
Go be blessed!!