The tiny shoe represents my life but it also represents the lives of so many other girls who are unseen.
Sometimes it takes an enormous amount of bravery to just go on.
Force, Fraud and Coercion; most people don’t understand want coercion really is in order to define or explain this. These three statements are part what is needed to prove human trafficking legally or if the person who has been forced into a commercial sexual act is under the age of 18.
Most of us have been subject on a small scale to coercion – by definition it is “to compel an act or choice” (not in a criminal sense however). You might be watching a t.v. show and suddenly a commercial comes on advertising a food item and suddenly you must have it right now, or a similar product for technology or a toy for your child. In the same way traffickers break down who the victim is either telling her that she is pretty or worthless and this is all that she can do.
In my case it was the only life I knew, with my father being the trafficker and I was a young child there was no one telling me any other messages of hope or help. I was told that this is why I was born, ‘to be his slave’. The abuse I suffered taught me to be silent from a very early age and that prepared me fully for what would happen the first time that I would be exploited at a very young age.
This was the only life I had ever known. I was too young to know that there was another choice, another life for me. I did not know that I had any other options. I lived as a captive broken down by the words and actions of my father who was exploiting me.
Legally it would not have been necessary because I was under 18 to prove force, fraud or coercion but they were in place as they usually are for those who are exploited as a child.
Therefore, when we think of how can this happen in our communities we must think beyond movies we have seen, beyond the developing world and brothels, beyond what you might have imagined. Children should not be sold for sex or labor anywhere in our world, but it does happen frequently. There is no childhood, no dreams, no bike rides, no birthday parties, no friends, no vacations, etc. He or she loses the ability to dream, hope, and believe in the good.
However, that can all be rewritten in their lives, the good can happen, I and they can learn to love and live again – maybe for the first time. We can learn to dream, hope and have fun. The story of exploitation is not the end of the story and not everyone in life will something that should be good and turn it to evil – for all of those who have lost hope, there are trustworthy people who are good.
So what can you do? Be an everyday hero in someone’s life. Show someone love, the gift of time, and learn to listen first. ( of course there is more but start there. )
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