By Rachel Parker, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Heartbreaking, frustrating, bizarre, and miraculous…working with survivors of human trafficking are all of these things and more.
Definitions and statistics are needed to move systems and infrastructure forward, but in moving a community to be concerned for their fellow man, for their neighbor, it should be the knowledge that as little as one has been affected. Human trafficking at its heart is termed best by Lauren Bethell in that it is an exploitation of vulnerability that makes a person the commodity. If you accept this as being so, then consider who you think to be vulnerable…have you ever been vulnerable? Struggled with self-esteem, relationships, dreams, and/or finances?
We continually see the victim as someone other than ourselves or our family, but they are people too, someone’s family, with dreams and goals and visions of an exciting life. They are not to be pitied or labeled; trafficking is a crime that was perpetrated against them, but does not define who they are. They are survivors and we should not forget that.
From a boy struggling to become a young man who wants to protect the innocent and become … a soldier.
From a woman who is hurt by the services and people around her that should protect her but fail, leading her to flee and seek protection elsewhere but finds that it is corrupted.
To a woman struggling with identity and looking to rely on the goodness of those around her, but finding that it falls short too often.
And a parent that sells their child.
The situations change, the victimization labor trafficking and/or sex trafficking, and the needs may vary, but a person remains who has a life ahead of them. Aftercare services are developed to help meet emergency, transitional, and long-term needs. This can be housing, medical, dental, mental health, education, employment, interpretation, transportation, and legal assistance. These services should maximize their strengths, and goals set by the survivor with the service provider. The results can be miraculous…
From a woman learning self-defense and situational awareness so that she will not be hurt again.
From a woman getting a new job and buying her first car.
To a woman learning about the role of service provision and assistance for individuals and the community resulting in the birth of a new advocate and humanitarian.
And a man learning to work through a disability and finding joy in expression through art.
Rebuilding a life is a painful, up-hill battle, and is expensive. It is also something that the community needs to be involved in as this crime exists according to supply and demand. Where have we created the demand?
Human trafficking exists in the distortion of our culture from what we perceive as our right and what is a luxury. TV ads, movies, magazines, and retail tell us all that it is our right to have that new product, electronic, chocolate, good time and ‘happy ending’, etc. We are a nation of consumers, and we think that it’s ok. That cheap sex and cheap goods are sought after as the norm. That we consume, attain, download, or ingest everything in one second and throw it all away in the next. Where is the value in this? We look at victims and our hearts break, but we don’t change the fact that we are the buyers that continue to push victimization of our fellow citizens, community members, friends, and loved ones.
Heartbreaking, frustrating, and bizarre in considering the impact of human trafficking on a life and realizing that we as individuals and part of a community have been complicit, if unknowingly, in this victimization. However, moving forward you can no longer claim that it is unknowingly perpetrated on your part. Miraculous in seeing victims transition to survivors, and people coming together to support them in this transition. There is strength in everyone, how will you utilize yours?
Rachel Parker is the Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist for World Relief High Point’s Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Rachel works to strengthen collaborative relationships with law enforcement, service providers, the church, and communities-at-large to serve and support victims of human trafficking. Rachel coordinates the Triad Rapid Response Team as well as monthly conference calls for the NC Rapid Response Team Coordinators. She also represents World Relief High Point on the Executive Board of the NC Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NCCAHT).