Human Trafficking is a global issue. Right now there are over 21 million people in slavery today, that's more than any time in history. 12.3 million of those are victims of Sex Trafficking.
Recently I was asked to help escort a victim to a shelter, my boss told me it'd be about a 3 hour drive and I figured I'd go with her because, of course, this is what I'm here to do.
****A quick thought running through my head right about now: victim is such a scary and technical term. It's like the word itself feels far away, like we're watching an episode of criminal minds.****
And yet here I was, in this car, with my boss ready to take someone to their next destination to heal. When we arrived at the place where we were to pick her up, she was in the waiting room practically jumping out of her seat to meet us, with 3 trash bags, 2 tote bags the place had provided her with and a pair of old headphones wrapped tightly around her neck. She was terribly polite: yes ma'am, I'd love help with my bags, no ma'am I'm not hungry.
She was wonderful. She laughed and talked happily about her aspirations, goals, and the things she liked to do. Suddenly, victim was a woman who loved to sing, and from the sounds of it was really good too. She liked to draw. She liked to write poems.
And she'd been through an unspeakable amount of pain. She alluded to horrible things she'd been forced to do, how she was put into the trade, how she has kids she hadn’t seen in years.
But a woman who'd been through literally hell and back was now sitting in this car and beaming. At one point my boss stopped on the side of the road at her request because she thought the graffiti on a building was so beautiful she wanted to stop and admire it for a minute. We did, and as she stared out the window she smiled and said quietly to herself, "This is my new beginning."
How does someone who's been through so much manage to be so passionate about life even now? Every day we let our experiences shape us, make us jaded to a point where we just go into things expecting the worst.
This woman left me in awe. When we reached the end of our long car ride and dropped her off at her final destination I stood off to the side while a bunch of the official people spoke and I was, well, being the intern. I was staring blankly at the wall when the woman came up to me, all smiles. She said, "Are you leaving now?"
I told her yes, that I had to go back home now.
Wordlessly, she pulled me into a quick hug. She laughed, and she said, "I'm never going to forget you, you're my guardian angel."
When I think about her now, I'm ashamed at what I let myself get caught up in, how quickly I give up, how growing up sometimes I destroy myself over things like betrayal and blame, and hold on to bitterness and hurt and blame when this woman smiled in the face of something so far beyond my comprehension and believed that it no longer matters simply because it is no longer there.
The thing is, I'm never going to forget her either. I finally understood what we were fighting for, why I'm filling out donation requests and helping out fundraisers. So people like her have a place to sleep, to feel safe, and to finally have their new beginning.