Saturday, May 26, 2012

Survivors not victims: thoughts on advocacy & awareness-raising.

This may be stating the obvious, but it seems like a safe assumption to say that if you’re reading this blog, you likely already have a working knowledge of the issue of human trafficking and are interested in, or perhaps deeply committed to, being part of solution.  But we probably all know friends who are disengaged due to the overwhelming nature of this problem.  Since we’re talking about a convoluted web of organized crime that is constantly evolving, it’s easy for people to just be overwhelmed and wonder how any of us could possibly be a solution.

False.  If you overhear someone say something to that effect, speak up!  You can, and already are, a solution. You’re an ambassador.  Those who have been trafficked don’t have a voice, but you do.

I’m a social worker who resettles refugees, and some of my clients have been trafficked or have been victimized by commercial sexual exploitation.  I started out in this line of work as a naïve recent college grad, motivated by altruistic ideals.

Over the years, this has changed drastically, though I suppose I still have the idealism.  My clients think that they’re so lucky to be safe now, and are so grateful that the U.S. has allowed them legal status to build a new a new life.  At first I agreed.  But now I know differently.  They aren’t lucky, we’re lucky the lucky ones…lucky to have such resilient folks in our midst who have profound depth and potential.  Yes, they need help with recovery, but it’s an investment, not a handout. Because their resilience brings so much to the table, it’s an asset to communities.  They are in every way our equals, and this is something that I try to keep in mind when speaking as an ambassador.

I found that this is important to remember, because when talking with others, you can't always count on being able to appeal to someone's sense of compassion, and that's okay.  I used to dismiss folks as heartless just because they don't connect with the cause the way I do, but that isn't helpful or fair.  We just have to be creative in how we engage the skeptics and the pragmatists.  We need to familiarize ourselves with stories and statistics of survivors overcoming all odds with the help of agencies like ours, stories like this one.

Stay tuned for more to come. :)


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