Many survivors have asked me, “Do survivors with memory loss gain their memory back?” This question is asked a lot when survivors are trying to piece their stories together. They want to be heard but they struggle with making sense of their own stories and lives. I had the same issue and it held me back for a long time. Once I pieced my story together I still struggled with how and if I even should “come out of the closet”. I’d like to elaborate a bit on what that process was like for me and offer my insights from my experience.
I learned so much from Dr. Bessel VanderKolk. He wrote a book called “The Body Keeps the Score”. He hit the nail on the head for me when he explained what trauma does to memory. I was subjected to so many traumas in my life, childhood, and adulthood. To this day I still have images of what happened. It’s still hard for me to put the details into words, and its always been like that. Dr. Vanderkolk says, “Trauma escapes language and causes memory loss.” This makes so much sense to me. This is one reason why I had such a hard time processing my traumas with my therapist. (Another article I wrote is (click) Healing Moments in Therapy. It’s on our FB page Human Trafficking Elearning, page under “notes”.)
If you are considering going more public with your story there are a few things I want you to consider. You already know some things you need to consider from reading (click) “Understanding the Four Stages of Recovering from Sex Trafficking”.
My advice is: If you are going to educate others about human trafficking you have to know your stuff, do the research and do your homework because there’s a lot of wrong information being given at human trafficking training and events. Human trafficking training consists of Sex, labor, male, female, adults, children and the LGBTQ, national and international. The legal definition of HT is this:
Sex Trafficking: Commercial sex act induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which person performing the act is under age 18.
Labor Trafficking: Using force, fraud or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, or obtain a person for labor or services in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
Derived from federal legislation: Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).
Make sure you give the right statistics and demographics. So many people train others by just passing on information they got from training that they took and that’s how wrong information gets passed on and on. You need to do your research. There may very well be an expert on HT in your audience who may call you on it when you cite the wrong information.
Human trafficking is very complex. It’s never black and white. Polaris Project came up with a very good book called, “Typology of Human Trafficking”. It depicts 25 different types of trafficking. This book clearly shows how complex human trafficking is.
If you’re working to be a human trafficking educator/expert, I highly recommend this book as part of your research project. Even if you only intend to inspire others with your story mentioning this book can be a way to honor the other victims. Hearing more than one story will broaden their understanding of human trafficking and this book depicts 24 different types of victims.
If you’re going to tell your story only, do it as a way to pass your life lessons on and to inspire. Know what your life lessons are and which ones you want to pass on. If you’re not going to do the research, and not claim to be an expert on HT, you can tell your listeners ‘your motive is to empower them and to inspire them and to learn about HT right along with you..’ Let them know you are not an expert on HT but that you ARE an expert on your story. You’re an expert because you know how you fell prey and you know why and how you escaped, but you are not educated on all the different types of trafficking.
What I did, at first, tell my listeners, “I don’t claim to be an expert on human trafficking or parenting. I claim to be an expert on my story. I don’t have any kids but I was a kid once and I was trafficked as a kid. I can offer my insights from my own experiences.”
Like I said in the 4 stages article, make sure you are strong enough if you find that some of your listeners can’t relate to you and your story. You will find many who can relate and this is the part that can be so healing. You may even inspire someone who inspires you. By speaking out publicly you will meet some wonderful people. That’s the best part for me. I never knew there were so many wonderful people in this world until I went public with my story.
Just surround yourself with your supporters, people you trust. You have something to say and you have a lot to offer others and don’t you ever forget that. You have a voice and its meant to be used. HT survivors are very resilient human beings. So many can learn from us. Human trafficking is a huge problem and combating it is a huge project to take on. It’s going to take communities standing united to fight this battle.
Onward we go together in our fight.!