A couple nights ago I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of an awareness event with one of the organizations I work with. The event was in the Buckhead community, and the guest list included some very influential people from the Atlanta area. I had the incredible privilege to interview three women who were survivors of Human Trafficking as part of this event. We sat in front of this group of 60 or so people, many of whom did not know about the horrors of human trafficking prior to this event. Two of the women were not from the United States, and one woman was an Atlanta native. For security purposes, no pictures were taken and I am not going to give specifics about their stories.
I asked them about their journey out of human trafficking. Their stories were heartbreaking and painful to listen to. Methods of coercion were detailed, and all three women became very emotional as a result of reliving these experiences. They described violence, acts of sexual degradation and horrific methods of control. Some of them were required to work for 24 hours straight. They were beaten and abused if they tried to protest. They dealt with the stigma of prostitution even though they did not chose that path. They were forced, they had no choice. There were many tears from people in the room as they heard the raw emotion in the survivors’ voices.
We moved on to discuss the hopes, passions and dreams of these women. We focused on their strengths and their futures. Our hope was that their physical and emotional needs could be addressed as a result of them sharing their story. The women expressed their passion for their children, and their passion for helping people. It was incredible and humbling to hear that all three of them wanted to use their experiences to help others. They wanted to fight trafficking through law enforcement, or begin their own programs to help girls in their situation. They expressed that by sharing their stories they hoped that they could inspire others to action. And I have every reason to believe that they have, as many attendees expressed their outrage and desire to take action as a result of our panel.
Many people hear these stories and sink into a depression of sorts. We wonder how we could ever make a difference against such an evil force that has affected 27 million people on our planet. But we can make a difference. In fact, there are simple ways you can make a difference, even in the Atlanta area. Did you know there is a national hotline to report incidents of slavery? Anyone can use it, and they provide services in many languages. You can call the Polaris Project Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 any time, day or night. You can call to get information about service providers, or to report anything you think might be suspcious. Even if you’re wrong, the confidential hotline can save lives- it already has.
And there’s more! If you live in the state of Georgia, we have a fantastic poster in seven languages we are working to get posted all over our state. The poster lists the Polaris Project hotline and is eye catching and clear. It is a powerful tool to make a difference. In fact, while one of the teams was out posting it, they met a woman currently in sexual exploitation. They were able to get her the phone number for Polaris so she can seek out rescue (she was scared and wasn’t ready to call at the time). This team quite possibly saved this woman’s life. This is big stuff, God stuff! And its so easy. It just takes a couple hours of your time. I can get you set up immediately to start on the poster campaign.
My participation in the panel served as a reminder to me. It was an affirmation of sorts that what I and others are doing to fight human trafficking is not in vain. These women are survivors as a result of the efforts of activists and freedom fighters. We can’t give up until we re-abolish slavery, one rescue, interview, poster, phone call, and prayer at a time.
How can you fight human trafficking? Share in the comments your thoughts about this horrific issue in our city.