Written by Brooke Axtell, Director of Communications & Survivor Support
This year I have provided support for over 50 survivors of sex trafficking with my team at Allies Against Slavery. Through referrals, mentoring, writing workshops, career coaching and our annual Survivor Leader Retreat, I have witnessed the fierce resilience and courage of the women and girls we serve.
Although they have endured severe trauma, they are not broken. They do not need me to heal them, only to help them reconnect with their inherent power and worth through transformative experiences and life-giving relationships.
There is a trend in the movement to paint a picture of survivors as broken, helpless and desperate. Those with good intentions, hoping to mobilize community support and funding for services, rely on horrific images of girls in chains and cages, stories of devastation to move people to respond. While it is important to educate others about the realities of human trafficking, we need to tell stories that honor survivors.
As both a survivor of sex trafficking and an advocate who has the honor to walk with other survivors every day, I want to share a different story with you. I believe that focusing on a survivor’s strengths and her capacity to become a leader and catalyst for change in her own community will not discourage you from joining us in our efforts to end all forms of human trafficking. I believe it will inspire you to see what is possible when we value the unique gifts and voices of those we serve.
We recognize that when we invest in a leader, we are also investing in the healing and transformation of our community. Survivor Leadership is central to our model for creating systemic change because Survivor Leaders are experts in their own experience and offer powerful insights into how we can disrupt exploitation.
At Allies, as we continue to grow our Survivor Leadership Program, we are asking women and girls what Survivor Leadership means to them. Here are a couple of their inspiring responses:
When you support Allies, you are not only supporting survivors of human trafficking, you are empowering leaders who are on the front line of creating systemic solutions to address the roots causes of exploitation. Women in our program are starting college for the first time, launching businesses, educating law enforcement and service providers, writing books and engaging in community outreach, so they can help other survivors.
I am devoted to this work because I believe radical love leads to radical change. As you join with family and friends over the holiday season to celebrate and offer gratitude, I invite you to join me in showing love and support for Survivor Leaders through our #SurvivorStrong15 campaign. With your donation, you will send a message of hope to women and girls who are transitioning from being victims to survivors to leaders and creators of change.
In Love and Liberation,
Dir. of Communication & Survivor Support