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What is it like living with the fact that you are a survivor of human trafficking?

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I know others have faced experiences worse than mine. And for me, having to face the horrors of events and believe its reality has been hard. But, it’s also given me an appreciation for living and gratitude for the opportunity to heal. This opportunity is available for everyone.

As I embraced the healing process, I realized I hadn’t come to terms with the whys.  Like, why am I still here?  How did I survive that? What if I had done this? Or why have I done that? I had holes in my story, which in some respect made me feel incomplete at times. So, some of my therapy has included revisiting still memories and in visiting those small still windows to my soul, it has given me a bigger picture of who I really am. Some memories I had kept from myself were good memories and recapturing them allowed me to put pieces in place. For me, having the whole picture has done so much for my sense of self.

For instance, I had this memory where about six months before I was trafficked, I almost moved out of the state. I was so close to doing it. Things had gotten really low for me and a good friend offered me an opportunity to come live with him and start over. I really could have done it. I was a senior in high school, but because I was pregnant, I was getting a home tutor. I had most of my credits to graduate. The reasons why I didn’t move were all the reasons to stay for someone else, not me.  Honestly, I was afraid to disappoint my mother once again. Exactly five months later, she put me out on my own, creating the perfect storm for a trafficking lure.

I learned a lot from that memory. One thing I saw was the lack of confidence I had in my own dreams and myself. I was living for others because I saw no reason to do anything for myself. There was no purpose, not even in the baby I was carrying to believe in something for me at that time.

When I tell my story and the audience learns that I left my child in the hands of total strangers, I see the confusion in their eyes. I see them turning their heads trying to see things from my perspective. When I face these memories, I am able to connect the dots and learn from myself. I too begin to answer the insanity questions I once had. My confidence level rises as I begin to see the reason for my crazy.

When I live in the reality of my past, present, and future, I get to take full knowledge of what happened, full responsibility for my part, and I get to learn so much about myself. I get to choose love for me instead of hatred because of something I miscommunicated to myself about my own life. It seems like it is easier to forget the trauma because of the pain it may bring into ones life. Trauma is a very real thing.  Pain is real. But, so is Joy. Hatred is real, but so is love and forgiveness. The other is just as real. Joy doesn’t have to be short lived while pain gets to lead the way. It can be the other way around. That’s what excited me about healing. It honestly was the hope of the opposite of all that I was feeling and had experienced.

On being a survivor, I am thankful I am alive to tell my story. Not only can I tell my story, I can heal from a horrible situation that should have killed me or at least left me in a thousand pieces. For that, I am not ashamed to say I have survived!

Nevertheless, I am more than that story. I live with the fact that I am a survivor accepting the pain and tragedy of my past, healing in my present and anticipating the joy of life as it continues to unfold. This opportunity is available for everyone.

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