Upon Meeting Survivors by Gia Cabarse

I’m standing in a small kitchen washing dishes for a family I’ve known for only three hours and I’m introduced to this new sense of home in my heart. I sit back down at the round dining table, and I’m surrounded by a group of familiar strangers. As Crystal goes on about fermenting her own kombucha beverage at home, I look at the faces around me and dare to fathom the kinds of experiences they’ve gone through. I’m in awe at how they’ve still managed to find love and meaning beyond it.

I didn’t know much about sex trafficking, I only associated concepts and ideas: pimps, prostitutes, money, sex. It all seemed like a lifestyle to me–one in which those involved are shamelessly so. It’s big in the media. Point a finger anywhere on a page of popular hip hop lyrics, and you’re bound to land some concept that suggests the idea of sex for money. But I never could have imagined the reality that exists regarding the sex industry.

Through this internship I was immediately exposed to a great deal of information that was difficult for me to digest. There are children as young as 12 that are brought into this modern type of slavery. They’re often on the street because they’ve run away from home, and the people that pick them up off the streets–to recruit them for “sex work”–start to nurture a relationship based on a false trust and loyalty. These victims endure a tremendous amount of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse from both their “pimps” (those selling them) and the “johns”(those buying them). They are subject to overwhelming trauma, often talked about as “being raped over and over again.” My heart grew heavy with every discovery of this injustice; and at this point, I refuse to let myself stand by idly.

I really look up to the survivors that are here, gathered around the dining table with me.  To have suffered from the cruelty of these crimes, and to spend the remainder of their lives fighting against it, is something truly admirable and absolutely beautiful. As we clear out the dishes, I look to a welcoming and smiling Kathi, and suddenly I know that I’ve found a new passion: the fight against human trafficking.

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