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“You don’t look like a survivor…”

by | Jan 16, 2017

Writtin by a survivor of human trafficking

In school, I was creative, determined, intelligent. An above average student. I really loved to write and tell stories. I remember in my freshman year of high school my English teacher gave the class an assignment to write a short narrative, maybe a couple pages long. It sparked something in me. I stayed up late each night working on the project. By the end of the week, I turned in eight pages of an incomplete work. I esteemed myself highly, knowing that I had potential and was on the way to college, dreaming of one day becoming an author.

Then life happened, and my ambitions were soon quenched by trouble in my home. My parents separated and my sister I moved to a small apartment with my mom. She worked two jobs to provide for us. I lacked the skills or resources to understand my worth and value. My whole world was shattered. All of my intelligence counted as nothing. I went from a fractured home, into an abusive relationship that lasted years, to falling victim to being trafficked, and now a few years later after I share my story, someone says,

“You don’t look like a survivor…”

It’s a statement I hear quite often. Sometimes it is buffered with a preface that it is not really appropriate to say, but most of the time it’s not.

And it leaves me wondering,

What am I supposed to look like?

Is it strange because I enter a room with confidence because I am well spoken, and I dress like you? Is it strange because instead of being wrecked by my past, I have found ways to find purpose in it?

Much of who I am today has been shaped by being trafficked, but even more so I am the same little girl who had all those hopes and dreams, who was determined and creative. My traffickers tried to steal that little girl from me, they tried to steal my moxie. I believed the lie I would never amount to anything again, but I made it out.

Just like that assignment in high school, something has been sparked in me, and in the last year I have spent a lot of time speaking publicly on the subject of human trafficking, sharing parts of my story, encouraging audiences to advocate, seeking to change perspectives and offer hope.

To me, this is what a survivor looks like. She is empowered and determined. She is fighting for other survivors. She is chasing after the dreams she once had and finding new ones. She is that little girl who has grown into a mother, a businesswoman, an advocate. She can be anything she wants to be, and mostly she’s not that different than you.

(Photo cred: Lauren Trantham and Ride My Road)

This blog was part of the Breaking Misconceptions Blog Series. To learn more check out the rest of the series. 

What IS Human Trafficking?

Why Getting Out of the Sex Trade Wasn’t the Hardest Part

Why She Isn’t a Prostitute

The 5 Worst Things to Say to a Survivor

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