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My Words as Weapons: Giving Back

I read, or heard, or somehow picked up an idea recently.  Apparently there is something in the Talmund that says that each person must think from a position that the world was an elaborate gift/creation given only for him or her.  At first that seems oddly selfish, but the idea is really anything but selfish.  This perspective is meant to create a sense of responsibility for making the world, this special gift, a better place so that each resident here on Earth will always strive to make a difference.

I think that’s a marvelous idea!

Helping-Hands

People can take this to mean we need to take better care of our natural resources in this world, and so trees are being planted and better sources of energy are being researched and implemented.  All of that is great, because I do believe God wants us to take care of what he has given us.

He also gave us another, invaluable resource: each other, and we must learn to take care of one another better. We must stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. People are resources and we all have our place in this world. Some have strayed far from their purpose, and still others have had their purpose stolen away from them through the cruelty of those who strayed.

We need to break that cycle and begin a new one. The “pay it forward” idea is not new.  If somebody does something for you, receive it as a blessing and find a way to bless the next person.  If you see someone oppressed, reach out to give him or her freedom, and in turn that person will help free others.

I hate to see injustice and I feel human trafficking is just about the worst atrocity out there. Although I am not always in a position to take physical action against it, I do my best to spread the word and create awareness so that people who are in a position to take physical action can do so.  You don’t have to swoop into brothels and pull out children or work in a safe house where survivors are rehabilitated to be “fighting.”  Use your words as weapons and help spread the word on the injustice of human trafficking, and any other injustice out there you know about.  When you do that, you are helping.  You are giving back. Learn to do what you can, but don’t do nothing.

My Words as Weapons: Olenka’s Story

As mentioned a few “My Words as Weapons” posts back, I am reading Victor Malarek’s The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It, a troubling read indeed. On pages 27-28 (yep, that’s about as far as my anger has allowed me to read so far) Malarek retells a story of Olenka who was a sex slave at a bar in Bosnia at the age of seventeen. Many of her “clients” were soldiers an UN peacekeepers.

Yes, there is a sick irony that those who were to protect and “keep the peace” were the ones raping Olenka and the other girls at the bar.  It’s just another horror of a sex slave’s life.  Who do they have to turn to?

They are alone.

They are forgotten.

They are abUSED.

And to most of the men who do it, these women are less than human.  Because if they allow the women to be anything more, these johns will know they are the monsters hiding under those girls’ metaphorical beds.

Olenka’s story reminded me of a movie I watched, and knowing it is based on a true story, I can only hope it’s the same story and not just another incident of the same abomination.  If you ever feel like getting angry, watch The Whistleblower with Rachel Weisz.

 

My Words as Weapons: Giving Hope to the Hopeless

Sometimes I have felt that though there was a lot to learn initially when I became interested in fighting human trafficking, other than individual horror stories, I’ve seen or heard all the statistics and there seems to be no new news.  In fact, the latest news tends to be that numbers are constantly trending higher and it sometimes feels like a hopeless fight.  But that’s the problem right there:  I have to stop looking at the big picture and think about those individual stories, because helping everyone begins with helping someone. This is another reason I like presenting my readers (and those they share with) information on individual organizations out there dedicated to justice.  They may mostly share the same information, but their different approaches are what is interesting.

This week I am highlighting an organization based in Louisiana, Trafficking Hope.

And I did learn something new from their website.  It isn’t good news, but to me anyway, it is new news, and I was impressed with their page as it dedicated a list of some common myths of human trafficking.  There is much about this atrocity that people do not know or understand, so knowing the uncommon information is important in how we approach it.

MYTH: Females are the only victims of sex trafficking Estimates show that as many as 20% of sex trafficking victims are males. (United Nations Office on Drug & Crimes)

Another resource Trafficking Hope offers that I think is great is being able to sign up for their Trafficking Report in order to “Be prepared, Stay informed, and Get Involved!” This seems to be a gathering of various news articles and such on recent events, happenings, and trends.  I just signed up myself.

This organization seems to offer help both locally and nationally, as they have Hope House, a refuge and place of renewal for those escaping sex trafficking as well as advertise the number for the human trafficking hotline- yes, there is a hotline!

Trafficking Hope’s tagline appears to be “Giving hope to the hopeless,” which I absolutely love.

 

trafficking hotline

Proverbs 31:8-9

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
    ensure justice for those being crushed.

Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
    and see that they get justice.

My Words as Weapons: The Truth about Prostitution

I’ve said this somewhere in my blog before, but there has never been a little girl (or boy for that matter) who dreamed of being a prostitute, selling her soul and body over and over again, when she grew up.  So where do these practitioners of “the oldest profession” come from then?  Sure, some get lured in or kidnapped through human trafficking, but some of these women (and men) have chosen this profession for themselves, right?

That is what people tell themselves in order to ignore the plight of these people, in order to overlook the wrongful stigma placed on these people, and in order to not have to admit that we have more control and responsibility in ending this than we want to take on, and in order to not have to realize that these are people.

I read Escaping the Devil’s Bedroom by Dawn Herzog Jewell several months ago and though much of the book haunted me, something that really stood out was when a couple took notice of young women who “voluntarily” prostituted themselves (from page 26). “They lacked other viable options for supporting themselves and their families.  Many women told Mark that they chose prostitution, but, he says, ‘When you ask them what their choices were, they had only one choice.'”  Survival, fear, and trickery are the most common drives for women to prostitute themselves.  Then once they are in they don’t know how to get out and many are controlled.  They are existing, but they’re not living.  They do it out of necessity.

And who do we blame for the existence of this profession?  Most blame the prostitutes, not the men who purchase sex.  But it’s a simple supply and demand.  If nobody purchases sex, sex will no longer need to be sold.  Then changes can begin to take place.  And you may ask, what then will these women who have nothing else to offer do? That is why we need to not only end human trafficking and the demand for the flesh trade, but offer more to these women (and men) as a means to support themselves.  We are such a creative people and there are many organizations and growing companies out there offering  change.  We need to invest more into them, with money and our hearts.  We cannot change the world overnight.  I realize that.  But we can begin to change it in small ways, as long as we admit that we can.

How do we drive down the demand for sex?  That seems like an impossible obstacle to overcome, but turning the way we currently do things in the US (and all over really) upside down can make a huge impact.  I learned by watching an incredible documentary on human trafficking, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, that Sweden has done just this.  About ten or so years ago they switched the law around.  Prostitution is now legal, but the “johns” who purchase sex are arrested.  Demand has quickly taken a dive and pimps and traffickers aren’t interested in doing business in such a high risk setting.  What if we did that worldwide?  Change has happened there already, so we have proof that it works. Also, according to this article I found, Cook County, Illinois has been putting this idea into action to see how it works.  Also, Houston and Harris County, Texas have outlawed the johns.  Good for them.  Let’s keep it up and let it spread.

Take the stigma off the prostitutes and place it where it belongs, on those renting and ruining human souls.

How Words Shape Our Perspectives

Words hold power.  We all know we’re not supposed to judge someone on appearances, so maybe we listen to someone else speak of that person, or we read about that person.  The thing is, the connotations of words still shape and color a picture in our minds.  Connotations are the emotions and nuances of words, and the English language is a tricky one that way.  A good writer knows he or she can effectively craft a character this way, and so many other points.  The problem with this is being careless with our words and creating the wrong impression.

My intention today, however, is not to give a writing or English lesson.  My intention is to nudge people to think more carefully about words already used out there and to dig beyond the words to the people the words are about.  Never judge solely on appearances or words because words can be tainted, whether intentional or not.  Keep this in mind while watching and reading the news.

Judge with your heart.

A little something I used to do to help my students understand the importance of connotation and word choice was to list some words and have them put them in order of weakest to strongest or good to bad (if I gave them a full spectrum of words) .

An example:

furious, mad, upset, miffed, enraged, angry

The result would be close to this:

upset, mad, angry, furious, enraged, and “what is miffed?”

Forget miffed.  At that point we would have had a talk about slang words and how they change from generation to generation.  It’s irrelevant here. I’m just making sure you’re still paying attention.

If I gave you a list of words to describe a person and asked you to put them in order of your personal feelings towards him or her from sympathetic to unsympathetic, what order would you put these words into?

prostitute, trafficking victim, hooker, exploited child

Your list would most likely look something like this:

exploited child, trafficking victim, prostitute, hooker

Explanation:  People tend to feel automatic sympathy toward a child; trafficking victims sound like they can be any age, and our minds would automatically want to think they were not children; prostitute sounds maybe just a little better than a hooker who is obviously lower class

Something like all that, right?

What if I said all those choices are descriptions of the same person?  Oftentimes a child becomes a victim of trafficking, and is then exploited for years as a prostitute, and because most people automatically assume a prostitute has no morals, it becomes fairly easy to tack on the stigma of the word hooker.

The problem with this is that very few children desire to grow up to sell their bodies.  They want to be doctors, veterinarians, singers, firefighters, or astronauts.  Few people would ever make such a choice.  They are either forced into it, or their weaknesses are exploited.  Most of them want out of such a lifestyle but are either trapped physically by literal chains and locks, guns, or drug dependence or in bondage by emotional chains of helplessness, dependence, self-loathing, or fear.

When we begin to think of these people as individuals instead of classifying them all the same we see them as daughters, sons, siblings, and friends who just want love and acceptance, and most likely a new life.

Human trafficking does not just cover those who are tricked, sold or kidnapped and forced to work in fields or brothels for little to no wages, but any person who becomes a commodity.  If we consider this properly, they are all exploited and they are all victims, even if we don’t see the chains that bind them.  30 million people around the world are enslaved in some way today.  Right now. In this very moment.

According to the Not For Sale Campaign

Slavery occurs when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence, to maintain that control, exploits them economically and they cannot walk away.

Let’s all help to empower them to go beyond being victims to becoming survivors.  We need to change our perspectives and to reach out in love and show them dignity.

My Summer Vacation by: Terri Klaes Harper

Summer is finally here, and many people have been asking me, “What do you plan to do with your summer break?  Don’t you get bored?”  As if I’m instantly pining away for the new school year to start. Here’s the truth on that matter:  Teachers aren’t sad during the summer.  We do not curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth, begging for papers to grade as if experiencing school withdrawals.  It just doesn’t happen. NO!  We only have two months of the entire year to truly LIVE. Give us some credit.

What are my plans?  I plan on relaxing as much as possible (for ten months of the year I’m wound up so tightly, I make skinny jeans look comfortable)- blogging, reading books, writing and editing a book, sleeping in the hammock, spending quality time with my husband, running and working out, playing with my dogs, going to the beach, working on the house, cooking yummy food, chilling with friends, relearning Spanish, etc.

And when I’m not relaxing, I’m going to work on saving the world.  Yep- I’m going to make as much of an impact as I can on my mission trip to Costa Rica in July.  My secret wish is to be a superhero and end human trafficking.  I get to learn a bit about that this summer with the Rahab Foundation.  I feel my future holds my husband as my human trafficking fighting partner, and dogs as our sidekicks.  More on that later.

So, my question to you is, what are you going to do with your summer?