She was just 18 months young—covered in Afghan dirt and held by her father. Her heart was four times the size of an average 18 month old child. In the US, medical treatment would be rather simple but in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there was just no medical means accessible.
It was estimated that she would not make it to her second birthday.
I desperately wanted to care for this young girl—take her back to the United States as a legal guardian and get her the medical attention she deserved. My wife was on board. My entire family supported the decision. Her family supported the decision.
Unfortunately, in part because of my position working as a contractor for Uncle Sam, the US government declined my request to help the child.
This was my nightmare. This young girl who deserved a chance in life haunted me for many months upon my return home.
In my dream, she would cry relentlessly until I held her in a rocking chair. So long as we rocked back and forth together, all her tears would stop. Then she would simply fall asleep in my arms.
A few moments would pass and her eyes would open in the most horrifying way—an indescribable look I still cannot explain in words.
I would awaken in my sleep trembling. It didn’t take long to realize I was just dreaming. It was the same dream I had night after night for many months.
Awake with my mind running overdrive, I would see visions of all the young children I encountered around the world living in some of the most heinous conditions.
I would vision all the young kids selling chicklet gum across the Calexico/Mexicali border. I would see the Bengali children headed to sweat shops. I would see the Indian children sitting on a side street cooking behind clay pots with an inferno below making sweet fried snacks. And in Afghanistan, I would see brightly dressed children covered in filth behind bars living with their mothers charged with crimes no woman in America would ever be charged—like running away from an abusive husband.
I have witnessed more child neglect and abuse across the globe than I wish.
As a law enforcement official for the United States Air Force, I responded to more domestic violence than I ever wanted, which often rolled into some investigation uncovering child neglect or abuse. As a federal agent working for what was once known as US Immigration and Naturalization Services, I saw children packed in concealed compartments like lifeless luggage, crossing the border at the brink of death due to dehydration.
Of all the things I have seen regarding our world’s youth, nothing bothered me more than a story about a five year old girl in Pennsylvania who was brutally attacked and raped in her home. I did not know the girl nor was I present when the incident occurred. To date, I don’t know why this one story became my tipping point.
The story bothered me to the point of finding myself creating a movie script, which later turned into my first publicly released feature length film called Dark of Light.
Dark of Light, as a movie, is not for everyone. It is a slow paced psychological thriller between a sexual predator and a combat seasoned single daddy. But truth be told, the movie is much more than that.
It was critical for me to write the script for Dark of Light for cathartic reasons. Yes, admittedly, I needed to write out my thoughts and feelings about the scenario asking myself “What would I do?”
It was critical to get on film, not to make money, but to establish a talking point. And today, the movie serves as a medium to spark a conversation.
We live in a world where children are often neglected and abused. We live in a world where the modern day slave trade rivals that of the trans-atlantic slave trade. We live in a world where sexual abuse has become what many consider an epidemic.
I was asked to write a post for Darkness to Light knowing the organization mission is based around child sexual abuse. So far, everything I have written appears to neglect the organization’s mission—but does it?
In the United States, Darkness to Light has found that one in 10 children will be abused before their 18th birthday. Many stats are skewed considering how many child sexual abuse cases are never reported to authorities.
Other statistics show approximately 90% of children are sexually assaulted by a relative or by someone they know. Again, numbers are skewed as we truly do not know for certain.
What we do know is the numbers demonstrate a crisis.
Upon my world travels, I saw other crises with children, including orphans, neglect, child marriages, and Bacha Bazi Boys, all of which maintain a common theme—the utter abuse of children. And yes, the vast majority of those elements identified have a second order of effect revolving around child sexual abuse.
The question I have is, “What are we going to do about the crisis impacting our world’s children?”
As one man, I know I cannot stop the epidemic. I can, however, create a medium to help spark a conversation. That medium is the movie Dark of Light.
The conversation is up to you.
With the conversation, we can accept a startling fact that we as a world-wide community face a serious crisis. Here in the United States, we can accept the fact that our children must come first as they are our nation’s future. And as men, we can once again become sheepdogs and protect our flock.
My question is, “Who is willing to help stop the madness?
Kerry Patton is a Veteran of the United States Air Force and Government Contractor turned Actor, Stuntman, Writer, Producer, and Director. He attributes his career in the entertainment world to his past government service. According to Patton, “Surviving in austere environments and cultures vastly different than the one you are used to takes a lot of acting.”