Wow. This has been a pretty intense day, packed with emotion. We started off at the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, where we heard from Anthony and Annika about their work in victims services and outreach. Their presentation was informative but overall it left me feeling like I wanted more: both in the sense of answers to questions and in that I hoped to hear from people with different perspectives. I felt like much of what Anthony and Annika had to say came from anecdotal personal experiences instead of hard evidence or studies. However, I realize that it is difficult to base any conclusions on hard data when exploring the issue of human trafficking because there are so few studies on the subject.
Our next meeting with Laura from STAR felt a little more personal, and I really felt a connection to the work Laura was doing in supporting and empowering victims of human trafficking. Laura’s comments about how she makes sure to include advocates who themselves have been victims of human trafficking resonated with me because it is similar to the model we use in several of the programs I’m involved in that aim to help children with chronic illnesses. I feel that people who have gone through a similar experience to those they’re trying to mentor, support, and ultimately help are the most effective because they have instant legitimacy in the minds of a vulnerable population, and they can truly relate to those they’re trying to help. In addition, Laura’s comment that all the women she works with have not gotten to the point where they can trust men again also struck me. This was one of the several experiences I’ve had in recent months which has really highlighted how important it is as a man to be conscious of how I talk about and interact with women. It seems like most women who have been trafficked have had almost exclusively negative interactions with the men in they’re lives, and I feel compelled as a man to take the next step in becoming more knowledgable about issues of women’s rights, and in actively working to understand my blind spots and make my community a safer place for women.
Our experience at the Orangewood Foundation was a very powerful culmination to the day. Hearing Oree speak about what it’s like to both live in and escape from the “The Life” of human trafficking has been the highlight of my trip so far. It was particularly inspiring for me to see how Oree is using the horrific experiences she’s faced to spread awareness about human trafficking, and both advocate for and support other women who are victims of the industry. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot lately about the trait of resiliency and how people respond to traumatic situations. The research that I’ve read mainly shows that people’s framing of traumatic events shapes their response to them: basically that if people see trauma as an opportunity to grow as a person rather than a terrible event that will only serve to bring them down, then they’re overall potential for recovery and resilience is much higher. It was great to see how despite her many challenges, Oree clearly framed her experience as something that will enable her to speak publicly and help others. I see parallels between both mine and Oree’s attitudes about trauma and life purpose, and I hope to learn from the strength and candor she showed today.
Some questions I have going forward:
– Why is human trafficking growing so rapidly as an industry? Is it exclusively due to the rise of the Internet or are there other factors?
– How does the porn industry intersect with the human trafficking industry?
– Why is there a stereotype that pimps want to get their victims addicted to drugs, when Jim from Orangetree said that the opposite is true?