“Let this one great, gracious, glorious fact lie in your spirit until it permeates all your thoughts and makes you rejoice even though you are without strength. Rejoice that the Lord Jesus has become your strength and your song – He has become your salvation.”—Charles Spurgeon
The old saying goes, “any press is good press.” I would beg to differ on this occasion. There are so many things about this series that make me want to start throwing things at my TV. To be fair, I haven’t watched the series in its entirety yet. Or at all. Honestly, I don’t want to; I probably will do my journalistic due diligence though and watch it.
To get a framework for my objections to series such as ‘Slave Hunter,’ read the Rachel Lloyd opinion piece, and you’ll start getting a sense of why I would cringe at the sight of a series like this.
Plus it’s called ‘Slave Hunter’ – wtcrap.
I will write a more in-depth piece after watching the series, but I wanted to just put this out into the Internet’s ether my initial two cents on ‘Slave Hunter.’
Today I was humiliated. Publicly. It happened at an anti-trafficking event where I was presenting to over 100 law enforcement and I’d just finished a solid, engaging presentation that acknowledged the fact that I was survivor but that didn’t go into details about my ‘story’, concentrating instead on the issue itself, how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go. Grasping me by my hand and framing it with, “what Rachel didn’t tell you was” the host inexplicably felt the need to fairly graphically describe my past including my ‘multiple rapes by multiple men’. I focused on a spot on the floor and didn’t look up until he was finished. I’d spent two hours talking about my 16 years in the movement, the thousands of girls and young women I’d served and the organization GEMS that I’d built from scratch into the largest service provider to commercially sexually exploited and domestically trafficked girls in the country. I’d spent two hours as a professional, as the Chief Executive Officer of GEMS, as an expert, and within a couple of minutes he reduced me to a rape victim. Some of the women who worked there came up to me afterwards with tears in their eyes, apologizing profusely. As survivors of sexual assault themselves, they were both mortified and incredibly triggered by their colleague’s behavior. His closing remarks had taken what had been a successful event, and at least for me, and likely other survivors of sexual violence in the room, completely tainted the experience.
I’d love to just put this incident down to just some random, ignorant jerk. But I can’t, because he’s actually one of the ‘good guys’, an ally, someone who’d worked hard to organize the event to bring more awareness about the issue, someone who ‘meant well’. After his remarks, he turned and presented me with a gift bag that including a teddy bear and used words like ‘honored’, ‘respect’ and ‘amazing’. I understand that he had good intentions, and yet like so much of the work done in the anti-trafficking movement today, it still hurt and humiliated me, and other survivors of sexual violence.
I’d also love to say that this was a rare occurrence, that these incidences for me and other survivors are few and far between. But I can’t. Because they’re not. If this was an isolated incident, I’d write a journal entry not a public piece, but there’s a pattern in the movement that needs to be addressed. There’s an unprecedented level of interest in this issue right now and are lots and lots and lots of good intentions in the movement. But frequently that doesn’t seem to translate to good judgment, sensitivity and thoughtfulness.
In my own life, just a few examples include: a funder who without warning chose to read aloud an excerpt from my book that described my experiences with johns at a non-trafficking related event and then asked other people in the room to discuss it; flyers for a speaking event put on by an anti-trafficking coalition that read “Rachel Lloyd - Sex, Drugs and Violence”; staff at a large organization that works on trafficking and gender-based violence tell me laughingly that they were going to be my ‘new pimps’; organizers of a conference quizzing me not about my work but about my time in the life to decide whether I should speak at the conference. I could go on with numerous examples of the challenges that I experience doing this work but what’s more worrying to me is if these are just a few of the experiences that I, as a nationally recognized expert, as a CEO of a leading organization, as someone who hasn’t been in the life for almost 20 years, who should be on some level inoculated from this by years of professional experience and education, am experiencing and am often hurt and shocked by, how is the movement treating emerging leaders? What are newer leaders, younger leaders experiencing? Unfortunately working with a variety of survivor leaders, both at GEMS and across the country, I’m seeing passionate, committed individuals who are willing to use their voices to make a difference but are overwhelming being hurt by the very people claiming to want to ‘help’ them.
If you’re not convinced that this is pervasive or that this is just my own personal experiences, some additional examples that have hurt survivors that I know, respect and care about include: flyers for an awareness event advertising ‘Buy a Sex Slave,’ an advocate at an event claiming that babies who were in the womb while their mother was in the life were trafficking survivors and that anyone in their life in the future, (a broad span that seemed to include everyone from their friends, adopted family, and the mailman) were all also trafficking survivors, a TV show that has filmed victim/survivors without their knowledge, t-shirts directing people to pray for pimps and johns; an incredibly graphic video clip shown at an event where there were many survivors present; a reporter known for anti-trafficking work who chooses to include the most salacious details in every story about survivors. And over and over again, survivor leaders showing up for events, agreeing to interviews, engaging with organizations only to discover that the only interest people have in them is for their ‘story’ and ideally the more sensational, the more graphic the better.
There seems to be a pervasive belief that if you are interested in fighting human trafficking then you have the carte blanche to be as sensational as you like (FYI, you don’t). There also seems to be an incessant demand to ‘hear your story’ despite the fact that for people already working in the movement the benefit of repeated listening to graphic details is at best questionable and at worst voyeuristic. When allies are questioned or critiqued for their tactics, the ‘but we’re just trying to raise awareness’ defense is frequently invoked. In fact, it’s often seen as poor form to voice these concerns , especially to do so publicly, even if the hurt or humiliation we experienced was public. Critiquing actions of individuals and organizations within the movement we’re often shamed by those same people for somehow not being grateful, that are responses are only because we’re still struggling with our own trauma, or laughably as if our commitment to raising awareness or fighting the issue is somehow far less valid than the organization that’s ‘just trying to help’. Our concerns are frequently dismissed with comments about how ‘serious’ this issue is, as if hurting survivors isn’t serious, or that we’re wasting energy when we should be focusing on the ‘real’ problems. All of these responses simply minimize the damage that’s done and survivors are left feeling guilty, ‘over-sensitive’ or questioning their own healing and recovery.
I can’t speak for all survivors as shockingly we’re not a monolithic group, but I can speak for myself as a survivor and for the survivors I work alongside at GEMS in our advocacy and education work; we can actually deal with offensive comments from people who are ignorant about the issue. In fact that’s why we are willing to put ourselves out there to educate and inform people and to create real and lasting change. We walk into a room expecting that, have our ‘educator’ hat on and we’re prepared for those types of comments and questions. We understand that many people still have no idea about this issue and that with their lack of understanding will come insensitivity and judgment. What is increasingly becoming harder to deal with as survivor leaders in the movement is the constant level of damage done by those who are within the movement, those who are our allies, those who are apparently on our side.
The challenge is less that people in the movement are uninformed and more that people aren’t willing to take a breath, to pause and think through how this approach might affect survivors, how if the words trafficking were replaced with rape or child sexual abuse how the approach might significantly change and how awareness at any cost, particularly at a cost to survivors, is ultimately more harmful than helpful. In medicine, the tenet is ‘First do no harm’ and it’s a basic principle that more allies could stand to use. If you’re going to be an ally, then be a true ally. We love and appreciate our true allies, we respect and value those who respect us and treat us as fully-rounded, complex, normal human beings not like some freak show with a story. We need more of those people in our lives, in the work, in the movement. What we don’t need any more of is good intentions that aren’t backed up by thoughtfulness, integrity, common sense values and an educated, informed approach. Survivors aren’t actually asking for special treatment, we’re simply asking to be treated as people, as colleagues, as leaders in this work who bring far more to the table than the ability to make people cry. We’re asking simply that in your fight to help victims of trafficking, that you don’t harm survivors in the process.
Around the world today, the powerful “feed upon the powerless” and too many people are treated as “consumer goods to be used and then discarded,” Pope Francis writes in his first major paper since becoming leader of the Roman Catholic church last May. — The Economy Of Exclusion.
The Iranian nuclear deal struck Saturday night is a triumph. It contains nothing that any American, Israeli, or Arab skeptic could reasonably protest. Had George W. Bush negotiated this deal, Republicans would be hailing his diplomatic prowess, and rightly so.
LONDON — Police detectives investigating the case of three women who claim to have been held against their will for 30 years said Friday that the victims had been brainwashed and imprisoned by “invisible handcuffs” in an unremarkable house in South London.
48 UNITS LABOR CAMP, Qatar — The camps sit at the end of an empty desert highway, past miles of bleak factories and turned-up concrete. The earth, walls and sky are pale gray. Dust collects everywhere — in the throat, the nostrils and in the corners of the eyes.
Fifa has said “fair working conditions with a lasting effect must be introduced quickly in Qatar” after Sepp Blatter admitted that widespread abuse of migrant workers was “unacceptable” following a meeting with international union leaders in Zurich.
(Reuters) - Qatar’s construction industry is rife with abuse of migrant workers who are “treated like cattle” and live in squalid accommodation exposed to overflowing sewage, Amnesty International said in a report on Sunday.
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - A North Texas man has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for forcing a 15-year-old girl into prostitution and advertising her online for sex. A federal judge in Fort Worth on Tuesday sentenced 27-year-old Deundrea R. Miller.
Steve McQueen’s new film is a historical story based on the life of a real man. It has been called a “masterpiece” and “the best film of 2013,” but to McQueen, the most important thing about 12 Years a Slave is that its story isn’t just about the past.
CNN speaks with Toronto Police’s Bill Blair about the global child porn sting that ended with hundreds of arrests. If your browser has Adobe Flash Player installed, click above to play. Otherwise, click below.
The first time Kai Bacharach uttered his name — his male name, the one he chose for himself — was in the spring, at an event for students accepted to Goucher. For the first 18 years of life, Bacharach used the female name his parents bestowed at birth.
Sen. John McCain is a stalwart of the Senate, a former candidate for president, prisoner of war and fighter pilot. As such, his voice is among the most prominent of the American Congress, and when he speaks, foreign powers listen in order to get a feel of the wind of our political climate.
Y Combinator-incubated payday loan disruptier LendUp has raised $14 million in new funding from Google Ventures, QED (a firm that includes the founder of Capital One and Data Collective. This brings the company’s total funding to over $18 million.
“The abolitionists succeeded in ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but their work is not finished. I fear that a century from now, someone may put together a movie about slavery in 2013, leading our descendants to shake their heads and ask of us: What were they thinking?”—
“Tracy, I don’t have to understand where people come from to help them. It’s like our great nation – we invade their country and impose our values – it’s great, it’s what Bush is doing all over the globe.”—Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock (Season 2)
The Environmental Protection Agency held listening sessions Thursday to hear from the public about a forthcoming rule about carbon emissions from existing power plants. More than 20 faith leaders spoke on behalf of those Jesus called “the least of these.
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Deadly diseases, once nearly wiped out, are making a frightening comeback in Maryland and across the country. Now — a warning that parents who don’t vaccinate their children are putting others at risk. Linh Bui explores an alarming and controversial trend.