Friday, January 27, 2023

'Fight for our children'

Staff Writer | October 28, 2020 1:06 AM

ATHOL — Ashley Browning said she has a message and she wants to leave no doubt about what it is: "We're moms, we have kids. We’re not to be messed with when it comes to our children.”

The Athol woman recently held a photo shoot at her home of women and kids holding guns and wearing T-shirts with blunt messages.

The idea isn’t to upset people, she said, though some will be. Rather, Browning sees it as stating the reality that some women are armed and willing to do what is required to defend their children, who face more threats than people might be aware, even in areas like North Idaho.

Women, Browning said, often stay home with children, are with them more than men, and are the ones who must be ready to handle those who would do them harm.

She hopes to raise awareness that "our children will not be a part of the percentage" when it comes to the number kids who fall victim to sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

“While we are women and may be seen as weaker and more easily targeted, that it is exactly the opposite,” she wrote. “We are willing to fight for our children and our community if the need arises.”

Others joined her.

Some eight moms with about 15 kids turned out for the Oct. 17 photo shoot that was promoted as “#saveourchildren” on Browning’s Facebook page.

“Bring your guns and your kids and lets raise some hell for them!” she wrote. “We will not be silenced, we are a force to be recorded with, we are moms, aunts, gas that will use lethal force to protect our babies!”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "Of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year, 70 percent are female and 50 percent are children. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade.

"Each year, an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States. The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country each year is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry."

"Victims frequently fall prey to traffickers who lure them in with an offer of food, clothes, attention, friendship, love, and a seemingly safe place to sleep," the DOJ reported.

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), one in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.

Browning said Monday that she put her photos on Facebook and her post had reached about 17,000 people, with over 2,000 reacting to it.

“I have gotten good and bad feedback but about 95% is great,” she wrote.

One of the photos showed a group of serious-looking women and kids, including four boys, holding what appear to be semi-automatic weapons and hunting rifles. Most are wearing shirts that say, “There will be no warning shots.” Another shirt had an expletive.

Browning said she saw a similar photo shoot done in South Carolina of moms and kids with home-defense weapons and it gave her the idea to do the same here.

About 30 want her to do another photo shoot so they can be part of it, she said, adding that she plans to do it.

She said she wants the photos to be a bit sensational and get attention to put a spotlight on what she says is the need to safeguard children. The threats are not just from strangers, but family members, too, she said.

RAINN reported that in most cases of children abuse, the victim knew the perpetrator.

Browning said she made no money on the photo shoot, for which she charged $20.
 She said she is not associated with QAnon, described as a “far-right conspiracy theory” group that believes there is a global children sex-trafficking ring operated by “satan-worshipping pedophiles.”

Her goal is to not let the threats to children “become something thrown under the rug.” Rather, she intends to be on the front line protecting them and hopes others will do the same.

Adults need to listen to kids when they tell them something is wrong, she added.

“Keep your eyes open,” Browning said.

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