Beyond the Glamour- Revolutionary
By: Rachel Davis
Having worked in the anti-sex trafficking field for the last several years, I have grown accustomed to the glamour surrounding the field. When asked what type of work I am in, reactions range from admiration to over-glorification, but are always positive. The glorification is a struggle for me because I know so well that the reality of the work is quite different: it is not full of beautiful, grateful moments of women being rescued and restored daily. Rather, it is a much slower, often painful process of watching women struggle and sometimes return to their former life that, while full of pain, is familiar to them. It is often discouraging, hard, and heartbreaking.
On a recent trip to Eastern Europe to visit one the projects Wellspring supports, I realized that the staff there does not receive the same public glory for the work they do. Rather, many in their culture view their work in a negative light. In their society, generally speaking, victims of trafficking are not seen as victims. Many assume that the trafficked woman must have done something to end up in her situation. She must have “asked” for it. Additionally, trafficking is tied to prostitution, which is seen as a one of the lowest disgraces of their society.
Armed with this information, I watched the project’s director talk with one of the women the project was assisting, and I was able to see her as revolutionary. She was going against the cultural current and fighting for these women. The director clearly was not doing the work for the public glory. She was in this fight for the women because she believed deeply that they mattered.
During my visit, the project director introduced me to Ana, an endearing young woman who had been trafficked in Spain for several years. Ana was repatriated back to her home country about a week prior to my visit. She had previous work experience in the food industry as a server, so the project was able to help her land an interview at one of the restaurants in a local hotel.
I accompanied Ana and the director both to the interview. While waiting, Ana’s nerves overtook her before the interview and her hand would not stop shaking. In a tender moment of humanity, I was able to hold her trembling hands and whisper a soft prayer and words of encouragement. While waiting for her during the interview, I grew quite nervous as well. I knew that, in her present state, her spirit was so tender and afraid to hope and dream. She desperately needed this job to help build her confidence again. Rejection would send her spiraling down and would reinforce negative thoughts that she already felt about herself.
After waiting for some time, I saw her walk out of the interview with a beaming smile. Relief washed over me as I offered up a prayer of gratitude on her behalf. While a job hardly solves all of her issues, it is an important first step in rebuilding her dignity. I left the visit with a grateful heart; grateful for having met Ana and grateful that the organization we support will walk with her through each step of her journey to healing.
Rachel Davis is the Senior Project Analyst at RZIM Wellspring International.