This past week there was no time to be alone, one thing after another left me arriving home late, talking and listening all day, and craving isolation time to decompress. That desired time finally arrived this weekend, this morning when I woke up my first thought was today I don't have to speak to anyone and a small smile crept across my face. This past week was not slow by any stretch of the imagination, a 20 hour drive from Georgia, a speaking engagement, a family medical emergency, and work. But finally, today as I process slowly my week I am struck by the hero that I met on Wednesday.
Being asked to speak about prevention and intervention of youth sex trafficking is one of the two most important topics I speak about, the other being vicarious trauma in public servants. This past week I had the opportunity to co-speak about the prevention and intervention of youth sex trafficking at a conference, and my co-speaker was a survivor of sex trafficking. Jasmine Marino (jasminegrace.org) started an organization to bring human trafficking to the forefront of our current cultural conversation. At 7 years of survivorship, she has utilized her time to speak to those who cannot believe, to share her story for those that cannot understand, and to provide resources and support to those that are still suffering and involved.
Watching Jasmine speak, I was reminded over and over again with each of her authentic words the reasons why this particular topic bores down straight into my heart. The thought of a woman or child (or anyone for that matter) being forced to have sex in exchange for money (that likely she will not keep) is intolerable to me. The thought of a person having to engage in behaviors she does not feel comfortable with in order to have water, food, and shelter is unacceptable. The misuse of power in these situations burns me up. Jasmine spoke of how it started out as a relationship that she trusted, where she loved her boyfriend and turned into entrapment, coercion, loneliness, panic and drug abuse. I have worked with countless young women who have lost their livelihood because they became involved in trafficking. Toward the end, Jasmine spoke of her own re-gaining of freedom, joy, passion, and abilities.
I love stories of heroism, it likely is my flare for the dramatic and sensitive side of life. Hearing someone share that they were down and they stood back up again and built a life moves me. Often I get chills from these stories, my motivation increases, I cheer inside, and the passion which is constantly bubbling erupts. All people can change when given the opportunity of love and support. All people are born good and develop maladaptive and harmful behavior when harmed by others. All people when provided freedom and joy can find a healthy and happy way of living. All people, when loved, can love.
There are so many resources out there now for people that are or have been trafficked, but the difficulty is believing that we are worthy, able, and becoming willing. This challenge is no different than any other type of recovery. These steps feel impossible initially for some amount of time and yet, in all of the stories I have heard, the healing begins when someone who is trustworthy reaches out with support and love combined with the victim being motivated and ready. Let us all be a person that reaches out, gives back, stomps down power and oppression of vulnerable populations, and crusades for justice.
Jasmine, you are another hero I have the gratitude to have been able to hear speak your truth. Thank you for sharing, thank you for being brave enough to trust another and heal, thank you for reminding me yet again how strong and righteous the human spirit truly is. Thank you for leaving your trafficker behind. Thank you for inviting communities into your heart so that they may see the light and the dark and understand. Thank you for co-presenting with me, for the really nice hug, and for the radiant smile that you shine on everyone now. Thank you for fighting for your freedom, cherishing it ever since, and using your freedom as a tool for opening this important dialogue. You are a hero.