“I thought it was just one of those secrets that families keep”
It was a Saturday morning and I was doing my typical thing at a local vending event, telling my story, sharing my passion, and explaining the impact of dignified employment in the lives of women who had been exploited. The days can get long and sometimes very hot which make me question, “Why am I out here?”
I knew many of the vendors around me. There was the loud, say-it-like-it-is woman selling grass fed beef and other farm items; the older couple who tempt passing dog with dog treats made by ex-convicts; the food truck selling organic and incredibly tasty crepes; the guy down the way with fair trade items, many of which have powerful stories of impact on those who make them.
The responses from other sellers/vendors at events like this is always interesting. Granted, we are not your typical booth, displaying apparel and jewelry with a banner behind them that says “Fight Human Trafficking with Style” and sharing stories about women rescued from sex trafficking.
Those who know me are not surprised by the stories, but as I saw the vendor beside me cast another glance my way, I wondered what she was thinking. I hadn’t seen her before. She was selling soaps, and it was obvious to me that she was doing her best to overhear my conversations. After about an hour she came over and introduced herself.
This soft-spoken woman asked a few questions about our products and wanted to know how I decided to start a business like this. The real question hidden behind the words was, “Are you a survivor?” I explained that while I have not been a victim of such atrocities, the stories of those who have been victims motivate me to do what I can. As I shared stories of some of the women we help, tears welled up in her eyes.
She proceeded to tell me how for about 7 years of her pre-teen and teen years her mother prostituted her out to men. Through her tears she explained, “I didn’t know how wrong it was until Oprah had a program on sex trafficking. She showed a list of activities and said, ‘If anyone has asked or persuaded you to do anything on this list, you are a victim of sex trafficking.’ Before that day I did not realize that my life was so screwed up. I thought it was just one of those secrets that families keep.”
The gratitude she expressed for the work Made for Freedom is doing was humbling. She returned to her booth having shared a bit of her story and reminding me why I was there.