Life After Trafficking, part 3: Finding My Way Home
Hello and welcome back for part 3 of my series on life after human trafficking. This has been an emotional week, but so worth it. There is something very cathartic about sharing this part of my life, that I haven’t really had the opportunity to discuss before. I have had some great questions and feedback come my way. It is obvious that I’m hitting all the right cords with people. Sometimes taking an honest look at our system makes us uncomfortable, but is that really such a bad thing?
Yesterday I talked a little bit about being on the streets after fleeing captivity. I was in a bad place. Addicted to the drugs that were forced on me by my captors, I had no money, no identification, no home, nowhere to turn, no hope. I turned to what I knew from the last years of my life: crime. And on top of all of that, I had the severe trauma that I faced on a daily basis. I was extremely mentally unstable, and always looking over my shoulder afraid that my traffickers would find me.
After constant ongoing of abuse by the system, the repeat cycle of life on the streets and the tireless meet ups with my doctor to medicate my trauma, I couldn’t take it anymore. I either needed to die or do something different, the resources I was given was the same thing: go to a meeting, find a sponsor, go to a church for meals, visit a church, join a program, what I needed was NOT available.
I needed a job right away without the wait of protocol; I needed a support network not just the Monday thru Friday 8-5 support system. I needed more than a hotline to talk to in the middle of the night. I needed change. Different people in my life that I ran into contributed a piece to my positive change, each of them played a huge part in me ending the cycle. I ran into various different people from 3 college guys allowing me to live with them without any abuse, a drug dealer who became my nightly voice to calm the storm, a pre-teen boy I met in a hospital dying of AIDS who gave me the inspiration to live, and a homeless man that let me sing the blues with him.
I took all of my experiences and started planning to change my path. I didn’t have much in the way of finance, but I did have relationships. What it took for me to get back on my feet, was as simple as having a few people ask how I was doing. Developing those relationships allowed me to find people who believed in me. My being here today with the privilege to tell my story is a possibility because I had help. I am a fighter by nature, and these kind souls gave me something to fight for. I decided that I could use my voice to make a change in our system. So I got involved with advocacy. I noticed how I was treated differently, never saying a word about my past. I was later invited to conferences, networking shops, advocacy training, I never heard about these in shelters, no advocate ever told me about this world.
I listened to experts talk about people like me. They called me their “constituent”. I laughed, took notes, and continued my plan in my head. The change was about to begin. I invested my time into pouring through the information, and even taking university law classes. I learned that there are and unlimited amount of resources available, but they weren’t being advertised to the people who need them the most. I never even heard about these resources in shelters. I volunteered in a local courthouse as I was able to, and that is when I was really able to pick up the pieces and start advocating for women. And educating them as to what resources are available, they need to know their rights.
When I was residing in a subsidized housing and living on disability is really when I went from thinking of myself as an advocate, and more as a fighter in the trenches. I was able to obtain resources which I shared with women in the streets. I would invite them into my home. I would let them crash on the couch or on the floor. I would cook meals. I would get free bus tokens and give them away. I would give my phone numbers to clients who needed help after hours. I became the person giving back and I loved it. I didn’t have much to give, but the strength that I gained from empowering these women kept me going and fighting every day.
I want to provide options for our women, girls and men of victimization that extend beyond just a roof and a cot. I want to give them opportunity to express themselves with art and music courses, give them a chance to learn about finance and budgeting, teach them entrepreneur skills so when the job market falls they have a back-up option. I want these people to understand that their lives matter. But more than that, I want everyone else to understand that their lives matter. We as a society need to give them inspiration to be a fighter instead of revert to what the system’s ideology of what a victim should be.
Survivors and Overcomer’s shouldn’t have limits, so let’s not allow that limit shut us down rather than make us rise.
It wasn’t always easy for me even after getting back on my feet. There were still times where I allowed myself to trust the wrong people, and suffer as a result. The difference though, is how to survive in the face of adversity as a survivor rather than as a victim. I hope to see you tomorrow as I dive a little more into that subject.