World Trafficking Day Against Persons is July 30, 2021 this year, and the theme is “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”; While I don’t personally consider myself a victim of anything, rather a SURVIVOR of my circumstance, the fact of the matter lies that there ARE many victims in the trafficking world. I am a statistic, a number in the United States, and my journey was marred with miseducation. I was met oftentimes by the ignorance and stigmatization of others both while in the life, as well as upon my exit from.
I began sharing my story, my truth, only in these past few years, as previous attempts were met with both disdain and disgust; I was and still am, by some, considered a throwaway, human waste. I am still, by some, considered to be at fault for all I overcame and survived due to “my choices”. To this very day, I’m looked at with either grudging respect or slut shamed and further stigmatized, depending on the human with whom I am interacting with.17 years removed from the life, and I am still screaming at the world to please just TRY and understand: none of us WANT to be there.
I began speaking at post secondary institutions in hopes to provide a clearer picture as to what trafficking does actually look like; To place a face to those of us who all to often hide within the shadows, so when they thought of “those women'' down the road, they would hopefully be able to recall my words as well as my story. I share my own traumas with them in hopes of gaining understanding, in hopes that they themselves will one day lend their own voices to this ever-growing epidemic that is modern day slavery. I speak in hopes of instilling a fight for change in those who will be the leaders of our future, so they are able to see and acknowledge that this is happening in their very own backyards and cities, praying their voices just might be enough to change the system that is seemingly forever stacked against us moving forward.
Many don't understand that when we are arrested and prosecuted, we are more often than not forced back into the very places we were abused in attempts to work our way out of those debts to the system. We are viewed as sub humans, those who are broken and unworthy. These misconceptions are damaging on levels I am still unable to articulate properly today, but I can attest many of the words spoken against me will repeat within the confines of my own mind until my dying day. Instead of looking at the bigger picture, we’ve placed our focus on placing blame on those who are being victimized, and that makes it further difficult to reach out for help if and when one is able and desiring to do so. The bonds we share with others are trauma bonds. Time and the further stigmatization have worn us further down along the way, and we begin to believe we are garbage, that maybe we do deserve all that is being thrown at us. It’s a complex cycle, and that is why so many of us reenter the life upon exit, as we know what to expect on that end. We know what is coming, and even if those are horrible things, at least it's predictable. On the other side, we don't know what's lying in wait for us, and when you've been conditioned by all those who claim to love you, only to turn around and hurt you on every last level, that makes it even more difficult to trust that someone else might actually have your best interests at heart. It makes it hard to believe someone on the other side wouldn't treat us the same, if not worse. It's scary and all encompassing.
Through survivor leadership, I feel like we are able to extend first hand understanding and acceptance to those who are coming out of the life so they are able to fully embrace the other side. There is no judgment, because we’ve been there to one extent or another. There's an immediate commonality, which can lay the groundwork to form a healthy, new bond. There is an unspoken understanding that we are no longer alone in our stories, and when these things unfold, you are really able to see the beauty of the entirety of it. I didn't come out on the other side to remain stagnant. No, I survived for a reason, and that reason has come full circle through my time at Veronica’s Voice.
We must change the way we respond and react to those who have been exploited. We have to understand this hot button topic is a human rights issue, and is therefore all of our problem. We have to come together as a whole in order to establish the proper steps and protocol necessary to serve those already marginalized persons as they strive for a brighter tomorrow. We have to decriminalize the victims of prostitution moving forward, focusing on the Equality Model; in doing so, this places the focus on criminalizing the buyers and the traffickers. When we decriminalize the victims of commercial sexual exploitation, it makes it so that those on the streets, or in the club, or hiding within the vastness that is the internet are not forced back out, usually resulting in further charges, fines, and penalization. This is an evidence based solution that significantly reduces the numbers we see when looking at commercialized sexual exploitation. We must look at these already marginalized peoples as humans, as EQUALS, and drop the BS.
It's time to get loud. It's time to get active. And it's time to end this once and for all. In order for that to happen, I need all of your voices, as well. Won't you join me moving forward? And if by chance you cannot, could you at least remember that every person on the streets, in a club, on the internet, in a hotel room, WHEREVER they may be, have families and loved ones and hearts just as you do, and that they are worthy and enough? When you see us, could you just offer a small smile? Extend a small bit of compassion, even though you may not personally understand? Small, simple actions have the potential to make a large impact, and now is the time more than ever before. Until All are free, we continue to fight. #EndHumanTrafficking