Over the summer, I started at a new job, which I’ve decided I can safely describe as a “dream job” – one to which I can bring my full self, and in which I can use all my gifts and strengths. Whereas my old job focused primarily on anti-sexual violence work from an advocate perspective, my new job focuses primarily on sexual violence occurring in the context of human trafficking from an advocate, trainer, and policy perspective. Sex trafficking exists along and as part of the spectrum of gender violence, and yet the history of the modern movements against sexual violence and human trafficking have had very different drives and trajectories.
A few months ago, I attended a training webinar in which Marissa Castellanos of Catholic Charities of Louisville presented on best practices for faith-based organizations involved in anti-trafficking work. She encouraged agencies to use trauma-informed practices, and spoke clearly and strongly against the somewhat common practice of tying services to participation in faith-based activities. “We don’t want to replicate the patterns of the traffickers,” she said, noting that trafficking survivors, by definition, have a traumatic history of being required to do things they don’t want to do in order to have their most basic needs met. When our actions as advocates require survivors to cede their power to our concerns, we counteract any verbal messages we may offer about empowerment, agency, and freedom.
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