Helping Trafficking Victims Be All They Can Be

– By Mitzi Perdue

Human trafficking is unthinkably evil in countless ways. Here’s one more, as expressed by Dan Silberberg, founder of ENTELECHY.AI : “Enslaved people cannot become all they could be. Trafficking snuffs out their light, their genius, their gift to the world.”

The anti-trafficking organization Love Never Fails can’t solve the whole problem. However, through their residential program, they have an impressive track record of enabling trafficking victims to recover and be all they can be.

Take the example of a woman we’ll call “Maria.” She’s one of the roughly 50 residential clients Love Never Fails helps in the course of a year.

As Vanessa Russell, head of the organization, begins the story, “Maria was an adopted child, but her mom kicked her out. Maria had dreamed of a career as a medical assistant, but she needed money for rent.”

At this point, when Maria was floundering and desperate. A “friend” told her, “You can make some money with this guy in LA.”

It sounded like a good idea, but being young and innocent, Maria didn’t look too carefully into just what was involved. She moved from Sacramento to LA, and her dream of an education turned into a nightmare as she found herself the helpless victim of a trafficker. True, she was making plenty of money, but her trafficker kept every penny of it.

If she didn’t cooperate, she faced beatings and food rationing. And then things got worse.

She got pregnant and gave birth to a special needs child. Now her trafficker had, if possible, even more control over her because if she didn’t bring in the required amount of money each night, her trafficker wouldn’t allow her to see her child.

An anti-trafficking organization in Fresno, Breaking the Chains, rescued Maria. However,  being rescued wasn’t enough. Without restorative care, as many as 80% of rescued victims of trafficking end up being re-trafficked.

They may lack the education and the training to hold a job and be self-sufficient. Or they may have been so beaten down that they don’t know how even to try to be independent.

Maria was fortunate because she became a part of Love Never Fails. Part of her restorative process included art therapy. As an example, she might do a body map in which she lies on a long sheet of paper and an advocate traces around her body.

She then colors in on her body map areas that are frightening and involve trauma. Individuals who have experienced sexual trauma might draw bright red around the genital area. Or they might draw red spots where they had burns.

Maria had those reactions, but in addition, something else came out. She couldn’t bear to wear pretty clothes or makeup. She associated wearing nice clothes and having her hair and makeup done with the times when she was being sold.

Maria stayed at the residence for 24 months. In addition to medical and psychological therapy, she also received an education.

In what feels like a miracle, people at Love Never Fails discovered that Maria has a gift for information technology. Because of training that the organization made possible, Maria today has an impressive job working for Cisco Systems.

She’s not only making important contributions in information technology, she’s making $70k a year, she’s living independently, and she now helps other victims of trafficking with their recovery.

Love Never Fails has a consistent record of helping individuals recover from being trafficked, but even better, helping them be all they can be.

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About The Author

Mitzi Perdue is a businesswoman, author, and Founder of Win This Fight, Stop Human Trafficking Now. She holds a B.A. degree with honors from Harvard University and a Master's from George Washington University. She's a past president of the 40,000 member American Agri-Women, and she was a U.S. Delegate to the United Nations Conference on Women in Nairobi. She was also a Commissioner for the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Her Scripps Howard column, The Environment and You, was for years the most widely syndicated environmental column in the U.S.

She is the founder and president of “Win This Fight! Stop Human Trafficking Now,” an organization that raises funds and awareness for other anti-trafficking initiatives.