I hear the same story told over and over again in a variety of ways.
He told me he loved me.
He was the best guy I ever met.
He gave me a ring and said we were forever.
I had to do it, it was the only way for me to show him how much I loved him.
There are a lot of things about how sexual exploitation happens that sadden and anger me, but I think it is the emotional trauma bond along with the manipulative lie that uses the word "love" that is the one that digs at me to the core of my being.
What has happened in someone's life that they believe the cycle of exploitation is love?
This really is the deep question that we have to look at to begin to understand and unpack how love can be so twisted, tainted, and darkened.
For those of us who have never experienced the trauma of sexual exploitation, we can sit back and say that this entire thing is non-sensical. How on earth could anyone think that loving someone can be equated to making money for them by having sex with hundreds of others? But, what if I said that this woman was in an abusive relationship. Her spouse or partner was beating her. What if it was domestic violence?
Most of us know the cycle of domestic violence by now. How a partner begins to isolate the other partner, how they become the reality, how they exert control over the other, how manipulation and words are used to change the thoughts of the other, how a bruise happened because "I deserved it." We know this cycle, we see the brokenness and lie in it. The same is true of the relationship between the trafficker and the trafficked.
This is the cycle of abuse.
One is isolated. One becomes dominant. One uses manipulation to change the thoughts and neuro-pathways of another. One is stuck and feels like they deserve this.
For me, the true sadness in this is that the manipulative tactic is done by taking the word "love" and changing what it actually is. For them, love is controlling. Love is authority. Love is dominant. Love is demanding. Love comes with beatings. Love is uncontrolled emotions and turmoil. Love is fighting. Love is doing what you're told. Love is selling yourself again and again. Love comes with a price tag.
But this is not love. I know a far deeper truth, that love is patient; love is kind; love does not envy. Love does not boast, and it is not proud. Love does not dishonor others. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
At Amirah, this is what we seek to do. Each day we work with the women in our safe home to reclaim love. It is taking everything they have ever known, and showing them a greater truth. Showing them that love does not come with a price, love is freely given.
This month at Amirah, we focus on the value of "Love" in the safe home. We hope that you will do the same as we explore what this means together.