by Heather Day, one of the safe home staff
I remember when I was first introduced to the world of sex-trafficking. I was at a Christian conference, looking up at horrifying pictures of women dressed in chains, listening to numerous, outrageous statistics that would make any reasonable human being cringe.
To your surprise, you might think it was then, at that intense, piercing moment, that I settled in my heart to fight sexual exploitation.
Honestly, I was not at all interested in doing anything about it.
I sincerely remember hating what I was hearing about, but thinking to myself, “Someone else can fight that. I will worry about something else.”
In some sense, I really resented how fighting for the exploited had become hip in most Christian circles.
It had become cool to draw X’s on your hands and post selfies, adding #endit. It had become super hip to buy vintage-looking shirts that encouraged awareness and gave support to organizations that fought it.
Just knowing how much attention it was receiving made me want to keep my distance from it, thinking that I did not actually need to do anything about it.
Now, it has been years since that first moment of being introduced to sex-trafficking, and I am sitting across from Leah.
She’s an older woman; wrinkles are starting to really make their way around her eyes.
I can see grief painted all over her worn, tired face.
As she speaks, I can hear her voice quiver over the thought of regret and shame that she carries like a mantle around her.
After years on the streets and having done an endless amount of drugs, she’s trying to actually leave “the life,” as it is ironically called, for the final time.
All these weights of the past have made their mark on her skin and mind, creating a storm for her to wrestle through.
Think about it: How does one function as normal when sex has been your only means of provision? And how can you function without drugs to numb the pain of all the wasted years?
As I listen, I am pained by my own regret.
I am reminded of that first moment that I heard of sex trafficking and how I responded with so little conviction.
All I know is that Leah is real.
Her stories are not foreign but are told by a woman who’s eyes stare back into mine.
And whether or not sex trafficking is hip and cool, especially during January–Human Trafficking Awareness Month–I know that Leah’s life matters.
And how I respond matters also.