And I had like an amnesiac barrier for the decades before that, and I had no memory. I knew there was something wrong with me. I would, I was like, I had a lot of stuff going on in my head that was self-sabotaging and self-defeating, and I overcame that and you would’ve looked at me from the outside and you would be surprised that that was going on in me, but I knew, I knew it was going on in me when this revelation happened.
It was, it was shattering, but also it was like an opportunity for me to make a commitment, to do whatever I could to create a world where children and women and girls and boys are not subjected to sexual violence at all, and particularly while they’re children or adolescents. So we’ve been working for literally years to launch this movement.
We just launched it in early March. And working with survivor leader, survivor advocates who are in on their healing journey, are ready to do a public advocacy. They’re ready to talk up and speak out, and we we’re saying to our everyone it’s time to get brave, to be brave. There’s no longer time to wait, we must do this.
Now we have the solutions. We know how to prevent childhood sexual violence. It occurs online. It occurs in families and it occurs in churches, schools, sports. I mean, just look at the newspaper literally every day, there’s a new scandal. So what we’re trying to communicate to the world is that, okay, they’re scandal after scandal, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s many more layers of the scandal to be revealed, and we have solutions. We can implement prevention, healing, and justice programs at scale for all people across the United States and in other countries, and really get it, get a handle on this crisis, this scourge. The impact of childhood sexual violence on adults is lifelong. Action and health implications and dysfunction, difficult marriages, people have a hard time keeping a job sometimes. There’s all kinds of repercussions, and there are all these estimates about the economic cost into the billions of dollars that it costs every year by not going with it. So I’m excited to be working on that.
Jackie: Wow, and, you know, first I want to commend you for speaking out. It’s so important that we have people that are courageous enough to share their own experience so that they can encourage other people to, you know, speak up and speak out. So thank you for leading the way on that. That’s so important. Let’s stay on that for just a second, Paul, if we can, what do we do if we suspect that a child has been subject to abuse?
Paul: Well, that’s a very good question. There are important guidelines on how to respond if you, as if you’re an adult, and you’re witnessing something and how you’re, how you encounter that situation, as well as, there is a lot of disclosure happening amongst peers, you know, young people under 18 might be sharing things with each other as well.
So on our website bravemovement.org, we have guidelines for dos and don’ts on safe disclosure. We have that for both people under 18 and for adults. And so I think it’s important to read those guidelines. It’s important to be very sensitive and very careful, you know, as many parents are also concerned about like, how do they keep their kids safe?
So, part of it is like identification, you know, developing a strong, open communication with your children, making sure they feel safe, kind of de-stigmatizing it and make it part of normal conversation, and so that if something is like happening, then they have a way of being able to talk to someone. I did not have that. There was no one I could talk. To many people are feeling trapped in silence. And a lot of times the people that are doing the grooming and perpetration are scary, intimidating, and threatening. And so, the only way to overcome that is to really great strong lines of communication.
I think if you are suspicious of this, then it’s best to identify trained professionals who can do an assessment and intervene. So for example, if you had a, a friend of your child who you are concerned about, you might want to notify the school the counselor or the teacher, or the school nurse, where they could do a professional evaluation, and then they could bring the kid into appropriate services.
You have to it’s, it’s a delicate, careful process. you have to do it thoughtfully and mindfully. There’s also hotlines. There’s helplines that you can contact. we have a link to child helpline international on our brave movement.org or website or in our country, in the United States there’s lots of support and that you can get through helplines at the state and local level.
Jackie: Thank you for sharing that, Paul. I, I think that’s so important because we in our communities need to keep our children safe and in our families, we need to keep our children safe.
Paul: Can I make one quick follow-up on that point that you’re making, because I think the thing that I, as I’ve really dug into this work over the last several years, the thing that is most alarming to me, well, the whole thing, the whole situation is alarming, but what’s happening is that there’s a big, exponential increase in online child sexual abuse and exploitation.
So as we know our children under 18, and younger and younger this is happening, are spending a lot of time on, on phones, on social media. The bad news that I need to share with you is that. The perpetrator networks are active on all social media platforms. They’re active on Facebook, on Twitter, on tick-tock on Instagram.
And experts have educated me that the way that they operate is they do what’s called trawling they trawl all traffic. So they know where young people go. They know how to talk to young people and they throw out messages widely like, you know, the, you know, if you can imagine the fishing ships in the ocean where they put out a big trawler and they sweep up all the fish in the bottom of the ocean, that’s what these perpetrator networks are doing.
They’re trawling the internet all the time. So really any child under 18 is at risk. And I think that’s a hard message for people to hear and for people to take in. And what happens is if they send out 10,000 messages an hour and they get one response a day then that’s a success for them. And then they start interacting with someone who’s vulnerable, who is lonely, is going through whatever other crisis. They offer them positive feedback.
They make them seem great. It’s the grooming technique. And then they cultivate a relationship with them and then they can ask them, oh, take a picture of your private parts, or they sometimes even try to get to meet you in person at some point. And that’s where I am in direct contact with people that were trawled on Facebook and ended up meeting some perpetrator in person and getting kidnapped and forced sex slavery in Boston, Massachusetts.
So this isn’t like in some far-off land. It’s right here at home. So I think parents really need to step up their vigilance and their monitoring and their, their approach to how they relate to their children and how children are relating to social media and online access. There there’s some interesting models out there.
For example, doing a parent-child agreement where you get, you have a written agreement and you talk through, these are the risks. These are what happened. If this happens, will you commit to contacting me. All that kind of stuff. You can try to limit them, but you know, they’ll just walk out the door and go on it or they’ll go to their friend’s phone or, you know, so I’m not sure abstinence is from all social media is going to be working, but there are things that we can do to prevent kids from getting subjected to that kind of terrible.
Jackie: Thank you for sharing that Paul, that’s, you know, it’s, it’s so important that we know what we should be doing, right and have those steps and those best practices to make sure that we’re keeping our children safe. And a lot of times we don’t realize how easy it is for someone to gain access to our children via the intranet, right. And, and our social media apps. And so thank you for that reminder. That’s so important.
Paul, let’s talk a little about some of the other movements that you’re involved in as well right now.
Paul: Well, the next one that comes to mind is the movement that I’m working on with stakeholders here in the United States, we have a movement that is calling for racial justice and racial equity. And we’re focusing on establishing two major initiatives and we’re doing advocacy with the government.
One is focused on reparations for African-Americans, for people who have lived the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and the ongoing mass incarceration and other situations that are affecting people of color right now, right here today.
I believe that we’re at a major tipping point in the potential for us to really address the root flaw in our country. The original sin of racism that was built into our constitution and on May 25th in 2020, when George Floyd was murdered and we saw a global movement, or the next generation of uh civil rights movement, the largest movement in the United States ever.
And it went global as well. And it, it was an opportunity for all of us, people of all colors to really, all races to really step forward and take action to fix this problem. And when you think about healing the soul of America, we believe that the best medicine to heal the soul of America is reparations and radical truth telling.
So reparations is an effort to repair and to restore the integrity of a relationship between people of different race that was fractured and has remained fractured for hundreds of years. And then the truth telling is an opportunity to really get into understanding what actually happened and what is happening now, and the ways in which systemic racism continues to oppress and suppress the power and the possibilities for Black people, people of color in our country and the world, frankly.
I’m an ally in that movement being a relatively privileged white male, that I am in solidarity with, all African-Americans and we’re working. We have a large faith movement. We have faith leaders across the spectrum. We have students that are mobilizing and law schools and colleges around the country. We have truth telling, efforts on 57 campuses right now, we have a state reparations study commission in the state of California.
We have a statewide lynching and reconciliation commission here in the state of Maryland. So these are government sanctioned processes, and there’s a think close to 30. cities around the country that are also establishing this kind of local truth and reparations commission and activity. And we think it’s really essential as a way to transform our country and we’re calling on president Biden to issue executive orders to make that a reality as soon as possible. And we’re seeing some momentum. So I think it’s coming soon, hopefully.
Jackie: Paul. That’s amazing. Let’s talk a little about reparations, right? What’s your response? When people say slavery was a long time ago, why do, why do people now need reparations?
Paul: So I’m one of my mentors in the reparation’s movement is a professor Marcus Anthony Hunter. He’s a professor at UCLA, founding chair of the department of African American studies. He is publishing a book later this year called Radical Reparations, and he talks about it at five levels, its political reparations, its intellectual reparations, its legal reparations, it’s economic reparations and spiritual reparations.
So the way that I’m understanding reparations is that it’s an abroad frame of the kind of repairing that needs to be done because all those things, political rights, intellectual rights, intellectual agency, all those things were, are, were robbed since the time of slavery until now, and people that are living in our country now are still facing oppression and suppression.
And so we have to look at the legacy of these, of that history of slavery, the history of Jim Crow, the history of mass incarceration. The live history of that and seeing that it’s all a continuum and, we need to break the cycle of, systemic racism that has plagued our country from the very beginning.
We can fix this thing. We can transform, we can evolve. We can evolve to embrace our common humanity, which is really. There is no hierarchy of human value based on skin color or facial features or other aspects of the way our bodies look. It’s. We, we have a common journey that we’re on and we have to embrace that so that we can solve the big challenges that we face.
And everyone has a right to live the American idea of life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And it’s just not a fair playing field.
Jackie: Absolutely. And Paul, what do you say to people who say this is just too big a problem. We can’t possibly fix this.
Paul: I don’t agree. I think there since the murder of George Floyd, there’s been evidence of a national movement of reparations and radical truth telling, you know, in May 24th, I wouldn’t have been able to say that, but we’re almost, we’re coming up to two years later. Since that time there’s been, as I said, local truth and reparations commissions popping up all over the country.
We have legislation in the Senate and the house. Calling for a reparation study commission calling for a truth commission that are made, that are gaining momentum. We have Republicans like Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who wrote a letter to president Biden and asked them to take action and establish a national federal truth commission to study the role of the federal governor.
In perpetrating or continuing systemic racism. I have been part of meetings at the white house with this administration since the transition, and then through the administration where they’re, they’re working on this, they know that this is an opportunity for them to lead. And the opportunity really is, is that we could, we could build a multi-racial movement.
It would be black centered and centered in the black experience. And then all races can join forces and try and come together to try to heal together. it has to be linked to truth-telling. It has to be building racial unity. It has to kind of lead to transformation of policies and laws and the economic system and all that, as well as healing.
I think there’s a craving, a yearning for us to be able to live together in more harmony and more peace. We see that happening when there’s crises, people come together. And I think, I think all people really yearn for that.
Jackie: Absolutely. And Paul, you talked about some of the, you know, systemic racism and the inequities that exist here in the United States, but all over the world. What are some of the inequities that you’ve seen regarding health care specifically in the US and globally? Can we get into that a little bit?
Paul: Of course. I started my career working on the HIV aids pandemic, and it affected people all over the world, including here in the United States, and the massive epidemic was hitting in Sub-Saharan Africa. And it was economically disadvantaged people, predominantly people of color, Black people, and it was predominantly affecting women.
Who are marginalized in the African society and culture or less so now, but still so, but back then in the nineties, it was even more dramatic oppression of women? And so the virus was able to spread without anyone doing anything about it to the point where there were literally 3 million Africans dying every year from HIV and aids.
And I remember when I was living in Africa in the late nineties, I li I, I traveled throughout Africa. I’ve worked in over 26 African countries, but I actually took a deep dive in and lived in Zambia, which is in Southern Africa. The former Northern Rhodesia and I can’t, my family moved there with me, my young family.
We were there during the dying fields where the death rates of adults, 14 out of 45, we’re escalating. And literally I was feeling it. I could see it. Coworkers and colleagues and friends all around me, were literally dropping dead. And then our kids went to a school and we had a drive and there was a, the, the largest cemetery in the capital city of Lusaka was on that road.
We had to drive by it and there would be days where there were so many funerals, it was like a massive traffic jam and you couldn’t even get the kids to school. So it’s w it, you know, living in that kind of situation really kind of makes you wake up a bit. And what I realized for myself was that. I can make a commitment to do whatever I could to end global aids or end to aids in Africa.
And then, you know, I would be able to unleash possibility. As long as I committed to do what I could to the cause, then I could work with others to bring change forward. And we, I came back to the United States and we built a movement and that it took a couple years, but eventually, in January of 2003, that then president George Bush launched a massive initiative.
He launched an emergency plan for aids relief in Africa, he launched a global fund and literally billions of dollars float, not only, only from the United States, from all wealthy governments around the world. And the report recently came out that said over 60 million lives have been saved since those initiatives are first launched in the early two thousand.
So that was about 20 years ago. So it’s exciting to see like you’re living on the ground and you’re like, you think there’s nothing possible. And then you’re not alone in that. A lot of people wanted to take action and your fig we all work together and we all build a movement and we all put pressure on political leaders.
George Bush didn’t walk in the office thinking he was. You know, do something about global aids in Africa. That was not on his radar, but we were able to convince him and the people around him. And then he really did. He did, he does care and he really did take personal interest in this issue. And he still goes to Africa regularly and is still involved in global health and African health causes.
So, you know, people can evolve and this is one way that he did. And the, this initiative, the PEPFAR initiative it’s called is seen as the most successful foreign policy endeavor of the United States since the Marshall plan that happened after World War II. So I’m really proud of being having played a role in that.
It proved to me that anything is possible because everyone told me during that time, it’s not possible. This’ll never happen. We’ll never get billions. We’ll never get Bush to do anything. You know, it was the typical it’s not possible. And, our movement the aids movement proved it wrong.
That’s how I live now. I know that when things seem tough, like on the racial justice topic that we talked about or on the ending childhood sexual violence, I don’t know why I take on the hardest things, but it seems like I take on the things that seem impossible, because I believe that they, we can do it. We can transform, we can evolve. We can solve these challenges.
Jackie: That’s amazing. And, you know, that’s the first step, right? To believe that you can make a difference and just to stay on that for our audience for a minute, there are probably a lot of people listening to this show that feel like there’s something that they need to do or want to do, but feel that it’s impossible and you are certainly proved that one person can make a difference, that a group of people can make a difference in the world. Significant difference. And so one, thank you for that. And two, you know, what an inspiration, that can be put in, in any aspect, right. In any way that, that applies to us, to be able to believe in ourselves and believe in our mission and be able to move something forward. So I think that’s great.
Paul, let’s take a moment on, on the, the work that you did with regard to HIV and aids and, there’s the part of it that’s, you know, talking about what you did right. And what you accomplished and what progress it’s made in the world. But talk about that experience from your personal perspective, how did that feel to be in that work at that time?
And then let’s talk about, you know, or share with us we should know about that experience. Those of us who watched it occur on the news, but may not know. I’ve had, you know, a personal experience with that or personal thoughts around, you know, what that is like. What did that feel like for you being in that work and how did that feel to you as a, as a person, as a human?
Paul: That’s a, that’s a good question. It was extremely difficult. I felt like it was important for me to bear witness to what was actually happening at the family and community level. And so I w when I was in Zambia, I would spend a lot of time actually going and observing and meeting people and witnessing what was actually happening facing the, the crisis.
I remember one time I went to a malnutrition ward in the major hospital in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and it was a room where there was like a maze that you had to go through, and at the end of the maze is where the kids were so sick that they were dying. And then, you know, kind of moms were with their kids going through this maze.
So you’re like you’re in this room, you know, kind of shepherding your infant, like to it’s to their death. And the wailing, the wailing of the moms, you know, as when passed and the kind of ripple of, it shook my soul, and I was just like, I live like three miles away and we had plenty of food and we were not.
And the kind of the inequity, you know, why, you know, why do I have food? Why do my kids have food? And why am I sitting here so nearby? And baby after baby is dying. It’s wrong and, and I, and I, I remember thinking, why is this happening? I know we can do better. I know we as humanity.
I know we as people living in Zambia, I know the Zambian people, they love that child. They love that infant as much as any of us love a child or infant. And there’s, there’s no distinction there. It’s uniform love the love force that connects us to these vulnerable new beings. It’s totally solvable. We don’t have to have that happening.
And then I was thinking, oh my God, this is in the capital city of Lusaka. This is like where the best food supply, the best healthcare system is. Can you imagine what’s going on in the rural areas where none of this is available? I mean, they’re just dying out there and we don’t even know about it.
So it really kind of shook my soul when I was doing a visit to a, well, we went to a city called Angola, which is in Northern Zambia. And we did, I went around with a home-based care program. It was a church-based program. And I, we went around and with the workers that visited people in their home and I walked into this one hut and this woman was like dying of aids. She was a skeleton, she was vomiting and had diarrhea.
Her kids had been taken away. Her sister was watching them. And she was like in this this mud hut, living by herself and literally dying. And I was just like, oh my God, there are life-saving aids medicines that are available in the United States, where I came from and I’m sitting here witnessing this young mother, just withering away and about to die.
It’s just like, it’s wrong. Like it, we, we cannot allow that kind of inequity to go unaddressed. we have the ability to make technologies like smallpox vaccine, like polio vaccine, like, like the life-saving aids medicines that were available in the global. moment of witnessing this poor woman dying made me kind of as impassioned to do whatever I could mobilize as many people I could to fix that problem because it’s fixable.
Jackie: wow. Thank you for sharing that, you know, it’s different when you’re watching something on the news or you know that, or you’re reading something in a newspaper, but you’re not connected with it. And I think that we can all no matter, you know, very often what happens is so many things are politicized, especially now, but you worked across several administrations.
Right. And I think what we can all agree on is the idea of human rights and human dignity and human safety. And if we start at that base level, we can all contribute to doing what’s right for humanity. There’s usually no crying in podcasting, right. But that is an emotional, emotional story. So thank you for sharing that. Wow.
Paul let’s, let’s talk a little bit about your book. So you have two out, Waging Justice and Waging Optimism. Let’s talk about those and then tell us about Waging Love and when that will be released and what that’s about.
Paul: I guess I’ve been, always thinking about, maybe I should write a book and struggled, I used to take journals and I had notes and I would write stories about my life. And when I figured out that I was a survivor of early childhood sexual violence, I went through, I was shattered by that revelation and I went through a healing journey and part of that healing journey brought me to this idea that maybe I should write a memoir. Maybe I should like tell my own story. And, you know, I have like a stack of books that I bought that I don’t read. So it was like, why do we need more books?
But one of my spiritual mentors said to me, Paul, don’t write the book for other people to read, just write it for your own healing journey. So that was like, okay. Yeah, I get that. And I, I did, I spent a fair amount of time studying my life and studying my journey and learning. And it was a very, very powerful opportunity for self-healing. And then when I had, when I published it in 2018, I got to speak about it publicly at events all over the country.
And that of course was also very healing. So I had a, like a deal with you know, sharing my story as a survivor and really facing the shame and the horror that I felt about saying that publicly. And I had seen other people talk publicly about being a survivor and I realized how courageous they seemed.
And it was shocking how in the line where you’re signing books, people would come up, men and women would come up and say, I’m a survivor too, and I’ve never told anyone. You’re the first person that. And I was like, really? I was like, I was so honored that they would, you know, feel safe to be able to share that with me.
And what I’ve learned since then is that bravery is contagious. So as I’m being brave or you Jackie, you’re being brave or anyone is being brave, the people around you see that and go, oh, maybe I can be brave too, and optimism is also contagious. So my first book was really is really a memoir from the past of my life from birth until 2015.
And then I felt like I really wanted to share more of my political philosophy, and how do you go about movement building and what is like your mindset that you have to have, you know, in thinking about how to solve problems and you don’t have to do global challenges like I take on. You could do this, like within your family or within your community or your church or your school, or you can do it in your neighborhood or there’s no, it’s all contributing.
Any act of justice is a ripple of justice that it’s all connected. And so I don’t, I don’t want to scare people to think that they have to take on global aids or, you know, ending racism in America. People should take on what they feel most committed to. Waging Optimism is a set of formulas and ideas about, you know, how do you live your life with optimism and how do you maintain being hopeful as we talked about earlier and how do you do that every single day.
I have to generate myself. I have to choose optimism literally every day. I mean, you read the newspaper, watch the news and get really depressed and hopeless. And I have, I have done that. I have pulled the blanket over my head and laid in bed feeling hopeless and I find it much more enjoyable to stand for possibility and stand for bringing forward love justice and optimism.
So the book that I Waging Optimism is a pamphlet. It’s part one. I am working on a full Waging Optimism book. That’s my number one priority right now, and that will be a full book that will be coming out hopefully next year. And then Waging Love is the third book in my trilogy, which is more of a spiritual philosophy about living with love at the center, living in a way where I’m cultivating self-love, I’m really putting love at the center of my relationships with other people. And both that I’m directly encountering or that I’m encountering through zoom or imaginary encountering, you know, connecting to broader groups of people and all life are all life on our planet.
So Waging Love is a kind of set of spiritual practices and a spiritual philosophy for creating myself as being a love force, you know, and, and, and kind of like generating myself as love, and so everything around me is like, I’m trying to be that. And in every word and every step and every thought.
And I have to work at it. It’s like daily work to really kind of like reprogram my brain take control of my brain and make and develop the neural pathways in my brain that allow me to generate myself as love. And I I’ve been working on this and I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to share that with others.
Jackie: That is fantastic. Paul, how can we learn more about your movements and get involved with your movements?
Paul: I would welcome everyone to join check out the Brave Movement. it’s bravemovement.org. Our first website went up in March. Our revised website will come out in April and that will it will have sign up and it will have action opportunities and there’ll be a lot of pathways for engagement in that website.
And then my other website is drpaulzeitz.org. And that is where you can get information about these other movements that I’m involved with and there’s click-through links. And there’s also a lot of information about the books that I’m working on, or that I’ve already published.
Jackie: Wonderful. And then Paul, as we begin to wrap up and I certainly could spend another hour and another hour after that, having this conversation with you, but what’s the message that you want to leave our listeners with?
Paul: I think for me, the, the fundamental message for that I’d like to share is that we have an opportunity as individuals and collectively to solve and to transform and to heal and we should stand for that possibility. And if we do that together, Unbelievable magical things can happen.
Jackie: Love that. Dr. Paul Zeitz thank you for, I mean, you’re, you’re literally a hero in our world and thank you for all of the work that you’re doing. It’s just really inspiring to see someone with your passion to pour love and, and opportunity into, into the world. And I’ve just really enjoyed, getting to know you a little bit here in this conversation. So thank you.
Paul: Thanks, Jackie. And I enjoyed getting to know you too. I really appreciate it, your great questions and your time.
Jackie: Thank you.