I was reminded of that yesterday as I listened to two survivors of sex trafficking. These women are still in the middle of their story. They are both the same girls who were trafficked, while years later, not the same at all. Their past is a part of them, and while they've found healing, I'm certain it's still a process. This is important to note as the story of all of us. As long as we are alive, our stories continue to unfold. While we may currently be in a safe chapter, we must remember that we all have chapters we're not proud of. Who we are today is not the same as who we were five years ago and chances are we will not be exactly the same as who will be five years down the road. So many factors play into how we are shaped. Maybe if we can remember this, we'll be more apt to extend grace to others, knowing that their story is not sealed. There are more pages to be filled, more time for redemption.
The women that I heard speak yesterday would have even identified themselves as trafficking victims up until a few years ago. Neither were even aware of the label. One was abused at home from a young age, taught that it was a cultural expectation. She would skip out of school to turn tricks arranged by a family member. She is currently on her third marriage, attributing this to the fact that she learned late in life what it meant to love and be loved.
The other woman was caught up in prostitution for four years in fifteen states. She thought her pimp loved her. He started out kind and gentle, giving her attention that she craved. When he switched and began beating her and forcing her into prostitution, she was already hooked. She loved him desperately and would do anything to stay with him.
While both of these women had such different stories, much of what they said was the same when it came to what we can do to help those that have been exploited. At certain parts of their lives, these women were operating from a brokenness that left absolutely nothing left to give. There were times they were mean. Times they didn't want help and resisted those that tried. Even in the darkest parts of their story they needed people that just showed up. People that would love them regardless of what they did, even if that meant that they returned to the person that was pimping them out. They needed people that were patient, knowing that healing is not a straight line. They needed to be loved "with a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love."
When they found that love, they realized the power of their story and how it must be shared. They didn't want to tell their story for fear of judgement but as one pointed out, Christ's love compelled her. She couldn't stay silent while other girls were being still being exploited. Both women realized that they had to fight for others in a way that they were not fought for. They had to act. They still face obstacles but they are changing lives.
One woman shared from Proverbs 24 and 31:
"Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,'
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?"
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy."
There's a couple resources that I've discovered in the last few months that has really helped see the stories behind the "cause." They're both hard to read but important stories that give insight into the mindset of these young women and what can lead to this type of exploitation. One is a book put out by Shared Hope International called Renting Lacy. The other is Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Murder Mystery.
W.E.B. Du Bois said, “There is but one coward on earth, and that is the coward that dare not know.” Learn. Study. Know. Act.