Now that the New Year is in full swing, partying is over, it’s time to get back to business. January is a very important month for people like myself and survivors because this is a time when organizations and NGOs rush out into social media and all outlets connected to the public to tell them that human trafficking is real and it happens in our country. Every year this time advocates are busy planning events, outreaches and campaigns all designed to educate the public on what has been termed the “scourge of society”. You will also see celebrities being well financially supported by wealthy organizations active in PSAs complete with hashtags, signs and a please support…….fill in the blank. ...read more...
Yes, we should definitely listen to survivors. They will give you the best education on human trafficking and tell you things you never could imagine. So why aren’t we? Why are most of the people speaking not survivors? The problem is survivors ARE speaking but they’re not being heard. Mostly because they are thought of as someone who is too broken be able to understand their situation or to articulate what they went through and therefore they need someone to speak for them. Another reason being is that hearing it from someone who is on their favorite show or a TV personality they love to watch makes it easier for them to hear it. But here’s what’s wrong with that. You’re not seeing the REAL person it happened to, your basically looking at an actor whose getting educated right along with you. There are no survivors there to back anything up which leaves a wide net of interpretation.
We should do all what we can to educate the public not only on what human trafficking looks like and how to prevent it but also what the reality of it is. All the information is being muddled by media, entertainment and Hollywood. Every event that is planned should be fully attended by the general public and survivors who are willing to speak out and make a difference. They should be the only ones speaking because they are the ones that experienced it. We should spend more time empowering survivors to be leaders, speakers and mentors instead of broken, messed up victims that are tethered to a life of dependency on advocates and service providers. Self sustainability should be the next step towards true survival. That means no dependency, full autonomy and control over every aspect of their lives. That is our message, not only do we listen to survivors we give them a platform to be heard and a solid place to stand on.
A survivor told me recently that if a non profit or NGO is going to use a survivor to advocate for and with their organization, that they should hire them and pay them a salary. I agree. If you’re going to pay a celebrity why wouldn’t you pay a survivor? There are dozens of survivors writing books about their experience in hopes to make some money because they need a job and some have children to feed. No one can expect them to work for free. We focus on their needs not our own. I understand the draw of a celebrity, I get it. It’s a great fundraising tactic but it doesn’t last, sooner or later you’ll have to come down to reality. Survivors don’t take well to being pushed aside for a famous person. Their lives are challenging enough they don’t need to be spoken about in the third person. If we’re going to listen to survivors when need to hear them and see them not a narration of who they are.
These woman and girls are brave, powerful and worthy of all that life has to offer them, so why aren’t we giving it to them? I always say we need to do better by them because they need to be better, they can and will be better as long a we REALLY #listentosurvivors.
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Samantha Inesta-Founder/Executive Director