"We will never be able to help every victim that is being trafficked." These words rung out over the crowd of movers and shakers sitting there waiting to be inspired to give more time, money, and talent to this movement. The survivor who spoke them said this with confidence and a knowing smile - it was about to get real.
The world of anti-trafficking is a bit different than other non-profit work that is out there. I attend social justice conferences and hear often about the 10s of thousands of people that one organization is able to help. The word is IMPACT. The main thing that we are dealing with here is an understanding of the macro world verses the micro world and the impact that can be made in a movement such as this.
The survivor who spoke out those words that shook everyone in the room to the core was absolutely right. This is the reality - we will never be able to help every victim that is being trafficked. It is a myth to believe otherwise.
But, I strongly believe that we have to redefine what success is in this movement. We have to stop looking at it through the lens of macro impact and see what success truly is.
It is true, we will not be able to help every victim of human trafficking. The reality is that there are far too many victims, and there are not enough services. Even if someone threw $150 billion (the amount that this criminal enterprise profits every year worldwide) into the aftercare world of anti-trafficking, we would still not be able to help every victim. Because the reality is that not every victim is able to receive help. The reality is that the hurdles they face can stop them from every breaking free from the cycle of exploitation. Their addiction to substances/drugs and to this fast-paced life, their psychological trauma, the blatant brainwashing that a trafficker has done - all of these things can stop them from ever getting help. And the reality is that for those victims that cannot break free, they will end up in an early grave, because this world that they live in eventually speeds up to the point of death.
This is a sobering moment for me. The choice to say that just because I cannot achieve the myth of helping every victim that is being trafficked that I will still do this work. Because the reality of what I can do is what drives me, and this really is what success looks like in this world.
Success for us is a woman getting up in the morning.
Success is when a woman is able to go out in public and not have a panic attack.
Success is when a woman is able to have a "normal" conversation with a square, and not want to escape from the room in the first 5-minutes.
Success is when two women are in a conflict with each other, but instead of going to blows with each other, they sit down with a mediator in the room and talk about what was actually going on.
Success is when a woman is able to walk into a job interview with confidence, and even if she doesn't get the job, not to melt down, but to persevere.
Success is watching her save money for the first time in her life, and learn how to spend wisely.
Success is watching her receive love, true love, from those that are in her life to support her.
Success is seeing her break free from relationships that are unsafe and would bring her down or spiral her back into the cycle of exploitation.
Success is hearing her make honest statements about what she feels, about her fears, about her dreams.
Success is seeing her transform from a slave in her entire being and see her become free.
The reality is that we do deep work that will last. This is what will break the cycle. The reality is that I will not be able to help every victim that is in New England, but the myth would be to let that stop me. The reality is that the success here will drive me to continue each day - and I hope that you will as well.