January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Trafficking people for free or cheap labor or for commercial sex is something which troubles all survivors of abuse and trauma. While our experiences remain distinct, the long road to recovery is similar and similarly difficult for everyone. This brief description of advances in victim-focused law enforcement includes a great video profile of a victim of human trafficking whose ordeal began when she was six. She now is a speaker and advocate for trafficking victims and for effective recovery programs that offer long-term and integrated support. Barbara Jean Wilson, whom I know from my work in the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, has a powerful testimony about how any life, no matter how wounded or devastated, “can be made beautiful.”
The primary takeaway from Barbara Jean’s story is that no one should ever give up on any survivor, no matter how wounded, and no one should ever, ever underestimate how resilient victims of even the worst abuses can be!
For ministries working with survivors, there is another important takeaway for your work. Barbara Jean’s work highlights the growing importance in federal, state, and even some local law enforcement and agency programs for involving victims of trafficking as advocates, peer support, and partners in dialogue and community outreach.