We are all the Same: Conversations with survivors of slavery.

We are all the same.

Our hopes and dreams are similar. Our desires and needs are alike. We want a good life for our family, a home, stability, and food on the table. We want to be safe and loved. 

When I was still in Cape Town I had to drive a lady who had just been rescued from a brothel to a place of safety. First we went with the police to pick up her stuff from the brothel, where she opened the closet and brushed passed the hangers of lingerie, reaching instead for a big winter coat and fuzzy slippers which she stuffed into her bag, and then she got in my car and we headed out. It was dark and out of the corner of my eye, I could see her long, perfectly manicured fake nails catch the light of the street lamps as I drove along. Those perfect nails, long and stereotypically red, used to make her more attractive to potential clients who would pay her trafficker to have sex with her. She was expressive and used her hands while talking to help make her point as she chatted away in broken English about her family and the life she left behind before she was lured away.

At one point she paused and then said, “When I left, I just wanted to be able to send my son to school. I wanted him to have a good education and be able to pay his school fees. Is that really such a bad thing to want for my child?”

I replied, “No that is normal, that’s what every parent wants for their child.”

Then she sat quietly for a minute, and if it weren’t for those long, red nails, now clutching her handbag, we would almost be two regular women driving along in contemplative silence.

“Thank-you.” She said.

Thank you. She was thanking me. Thanking me for justifying her love for her son, the love that drove her to make decisions I will never be able to fully understand. She was thanking me for saying that she was like every other parent who dreamed of something bigger for their child, for wanting to give her son a good education and the chance at a future. For being a normal woman who saw an opportunity to make her life better, and like hundreds of loving mothers before her, took a chance that she hoped would break the cycle of poverty in her family.

It was those red nails that gave her away as not your average mother, those long, red nails, and fake eyelashes and high heels, all serving to mark her as a prostituted woman. A woman who had been trafficked into South Africa 6 months before, who had been forced to work in a brothel and hadn’t received any money for it. She was a slave. And yet she was so much like every other mother I have ever known.

A few days later I had two other girls in my car. We were also driving to a shelter and the two girls were talking to one another about God. The first one said, “Why do bad things keep happening to us?”

Then the second one added, “If God is love, why is there so much suffering in life?”

I almost wanted to laugh at how incredibly normal their questions were. I caught the eye of the one girl in my rear view mirror and said to her that she was asking the same questions that people have asked throughout history. The conversation than moved on to discuss how good it was that their situation was significantly better off than many other girls.

Conversing with a trafficked person is probably the most humbling and grounding experience one can have.

A trafficked person is a slave.

A slave is a person whose ability to choose their destiny has been taken away.

But a slave is still a person, with normal hopes and dreams, who wonders about God and suffering and why bad things happen to good people.

A person who can recognize that there is someone worse off than them, and just like I listen to their stories and realize how blessed I am, they listen to someone else’s situation and see how blessed they are.

Every girl I have ever talked to who has been rescued from slavery has echoed the same sentiment.

She says, “I want to work, I want to make some money and support myself and my family.”

Now that I am in Amsterdam, our focus is to create new futures for survivors of human trafficking through job creation and training opportunities.

While we work on a design to assist these survivors, it is key for me to remember the conversations in my car with so many different girls.

Key to remember that each of them harbours in her heart very normal hopes and dreams, that each was once a little girl dreaming of a future and that today she is a woman who has sacrificed for her family. But at her core, she is the same as anyone else.

This is why fighting human trafficking is so important.

Because if this can happen to ‘her’, it could happen to someone else, but it should never happen to anyone.

We fight human trafficking because at the core we are all the same and it is one of the worst kinds of evil to take away the freedom of another person. We fight human trafficking because one of the greatest acts we can achieve is give someone back their future.

We fight human trafficking because…

We are all the same.

Our hopes and dreams are similar. Our desires and needs are alike. We want a good life for our family, a home, stability, and food on the table. We want to be safe and loved.

I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams.

– Jonas Salk

Watch this documentary below about a girl who was trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, but has now gone on to dream big and accomplish some of those dreams:

This is why creating new futures is key to the fight against human trafficking.

4 Responses to “We are all the Same: Conversations with survivors of slavery.”
  1. Wes Roberts says:

    …heartbreaking and encouraging all at the same time.
    …bless you for this remarkable work you are doing………..!!!

  2. This post was AMAZING !!!
    Anyway that you would be interested in networking ?

  3. Kathy Lebron says:

    Thank you for this excellent post and your passionate work. Girls are girls. And all girls dream. About love, marriage, family, and future. Their circumstances are hard pressed to rob them of their dreams. Yet, girls who’ve been the victims of sex trafficking may feel like their dreams are just beyond their reach. They need us to let them know that it’s not too late, and help them rebuild their lives and their dreams. We need to let them know there are those who will stand beside them and encourage, promote, and do what we can to assist them in reaching their hearts’ desires. Together, we can make a difference in their lives, and we must. Hope you’ll join with us as we join with you! http://www.facebook.com/groups/132297706810703/

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