At our thirty day Assessment Center, we are on the front lines of the battle against sex trafficking. The initial work to be done is getting them to feel safe and be still. These women are in fight or flight survival mode and for the first time, in perhaps years or even decades, they are safe. They can sleep without interruption; without fear of being harmed. They do not have to fight another day to provide for themselves, to eat, to find safe shelter or to succumb to never-ending demands of men. They can let their guards down and begin to face the road ahead.
Often they begin to feel physical symptoms for the first time as the adrenaline and other hormones begin to settle. Being still for the first time, they notice aches and pains. It’s amazing how our brain works. To help them survive, these “pains” were numbed. Sometimes by drug use and other times just by being in a constant state of survival. But when they begin to practice stillness for the first time, they become aware of their body. And often it is hurting. We spend a good amount of time in the ER and doctors offices with our new arrivals, as we begin to address the many pieces of their abuse: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Unconditional love, acceptance without judgement, and our own transparency are the tools we use as staff to gently knock on their walls and allow them to slowly remove each rock. Each stone has a name, and very often the first stone we encounter is shame.
Shame is a painful belief that you are defective, broken, worthless. Induced shame is a big obstacle we face when trying to break through the defensive walls of new women who come into our program. If you read Bobbie’s last blog, you read the labels sexually exploited women carry around. These labels are like dark glasses, tinted with names they may have been called or lies they have believed about themselves that greatly affect how they see themselves and the world around them. These lies skew their vision and everything is viewed through these glasses. This causes anger, defensiveness and impulsive reactions as they take in information around them and run it through the filter of their own shame. To the untrained eye, they can appear defensive, aggressive, manipulative and even combative. But behind these survival techniques and walls of “toughness,” are women who are deeply hurt.
One activity we use to start the process of healing shame is a Shame Self Portrait Art Therapy Workshop. Recognizing these lies is the first step in fighting the battle and to begin to combat this stinkin’ thinkin’ and win victory in God’s truth that we are all His precious creations! Below are a few examples women have given us permission to share of their self portraits:
In human trafficking ministry, the battle can often seem daunting, but it is then that we have to remind ourselves that the battle has already been won! God is victorious. HIS truth reigns and as we tell our residents, “You are NEVER alone, God rejoices over you, you have been give freedom and are chosen and adopted by God, which makes you the daughter of a King; a princess!”
~Kara, Assessment Center Employee