You hear about sex trafficking and want to get involved right away, because let's face it, everyone's heart breaks over the terrible news that women, girls, boys, men are being forced by someone else to sell their bodies over and over again. Somewhere along the way, there becomes an ideal image of what it will be like to help a victim of trafficking. Pictures in your brain develop of breakthrough conversations on a comfy couch with a cup of tea. You have this image that you will be the one to love this person so much that their trauma will just melt away. Gratitude will gush out of them; they will be open and honest about everything, because they are so excited to finally have the chance to be free.
No one quite prepares you for the fact that this is never the case when you work with this population. Liberation is a battle that is fought, and those who are walking alongside the victims choosing liberation need to be prepared for a good amount of friendly fire.
Trauma does not come with step-by-step instructions and a clear path of restoration - it comes with walls, most 3-feet thick, having been built steadily for years.
One of the biggest walls that we encounter in this work is the code of the streets. A victim has had to survive having learned this in some of the most horrific ways possible. They have been groomed by fear; they have been taken care of by fellow addicts; they have seen things no one ever should; they have witnessed authority live out hypocrisy. Along the way, a code has been built inside of them.
Snitches gets stitches.
Fight or flight.
Take care of your own.
Watch your back. Protect yourself. Don't punk out.
Straighten 'em out if they step up to you.
Don't let 'em know how scared you are.
This code is complex, but for the women that we see in our home, it is a part of who they have become. It has helped them to survive and it is why they are still alive today.
But how can she be truly liberated if she has to live in fear? How can she have freedom in herself if she is refusing to be honest?
At Amirah, we fight for integrity. Integrity is the quality of one’s person to be whole, honest and undivided. When one has had to live by the code of the street, their inner being has been divided again and again. We believe though that true liberation happens when a woman no longer stands for the code of the street, but for her integrity. She is standing firm within the fact that she is no longer undivided.
This process from street to wholeness is not something that happens overnight. There are no comfy couches, laughter and tea when it comes to reorienting the very thing that has kept her alive. There is just consistent honesty each day - living honestly with integrity before her, scars, wounds, sins and all.
This post is a part of a series on "Changing the Code."