I recently started a position writing for The Exodus Road, a counter human trafficking organization. The work they’re doing is equal parts heroic and heartbreaking.
How does one write about a subject like human trafficking well? How do I find the words to convey the depth of darkness and depravity in this hidden world while at the same time maintaining the dignity of all the people involved in it?
How do I accurately tell true stories that will wrench your heart out and tear it into pieces without further exploiting the people they’re about? Like a 14 year old girl trafficked by another 14 year old? Or a mama in poverty who is so desperate that she trafficks her own daughters? Or a boy who was trafficked as a child, whose only way out of that horror is to traffic someone else?
These stories need to be shared. The only way to drive out the darkness is by bringing in light. But when you shine light, it means looking fully at the horrors that happen in the dark. And it can be so hard.
My heart is tender as I read the statistics and dive into the dark corners of the internet to do the research for telling these stories. It’s hard to find the line between remaining soft and compassionate and hardening myself so that I’m able to look fully at the darkness. I don’t want to read so many stories of evil that they start to blur into a new version of normal. I don’t want to read something that once horrified me and think I’ve read this before. I don’t want my tolerance for evil to unintentionally grow as I do this work. I want to always be horrified and heartbroken by evil.
It’s complicated. I want to share the totality of the stories with you in order to fully step into this fight and I want to preserve the dignity of survivors. The world of human trafficking is a complex place with many aspects that are hard to understand if you have not walked in the shoes of those who are in it. Evil is at work, to be sure. But also so many perpetrators were once victims themselves. At what point do they move from being someone we’re fighting for to someone we’re fighting against?
I am a writer. So I tell the stories of slavery and oppression in hopes of shedding light in dark places.
I am a mom. So I picture my children and grieve the shortened childhoods and lost innocence of children who are growing up way too fast.
I am a Christian. So I find hope in Christ and long for the redemption of this lost and hurting world.
I am a humanitarian. So I look for ways to work for justice for the vulnerable and the oppressed in the world.
There are so many overlapping layers to this work.
It would be easy for me to sensationalize the stories of human trafficking in order to evoke pity or righteous anger. Social media is brimming with this. But sharing the truth about the depravity of evil in a way that doesn’t further exploit the victims of it takes a lot of nuance.
It means finding the line between maintaining a soft and vulnerable heart and becoming calloused and hardened in order to do this hard work over the long haul.
But isn’t life is exactly that? Experiencing the full range of emotions as a resident of this broken world while also remaining soft enough to be moved to heal it.
Oh, Becky. Of all your blogs, this one really showed me your powerful and authentic voice as a writer!
I identified with the tension and challenge you so adeptly described with raw, rich emotion. I can say, “We are kindred spirits!” I so appreciate your heart and passion to share this blight upon society while shining Christ’s light, truth and grace, upon this slippery slope, to help bring understanding, motivating godly response.
God bless you, Sister!