I can’t understand – and many survivors can’t understand – why anybody would lie about what we have gone through and the struggle that it took us to get here, although many survivors have been through different circumstances. And over the years, pieces may grow of their story. The substance never changes. The substance can’t change because it’s what we went through. In this movement has been hard already for so many organizations to find funding, I’m always astonished when I hear more and more organizations pop up. More and more people are getting upset that people are asking survivors questions to identify whether they’re a survivor or not. Isn’t this what we do for domestic violence or sexual assault? Would I get offended if you asked me questions to verify that I’m a survivor of sex trafficking?? I would NOT if another survivor asked me and we had a conversation about this and not a interrogation, why would I?? I grew up in what we call the “life” and honestly I’m use to that and know how to handle it, therefore I would not be offended.
But who would be offended or hurt ? Who would jump on the defensive? Not a question I’m going to answer just something to think about. It took me a very long time to change my own mindset to get out of the life and many of the survivors I know also had to push past what we endured to start organizations to speak out, but many of us do this with very very little funding or none at all, because we cannot possibly see anyone else go through the pain that we have all gone through. We don’t get the millions, we don’t get the Time magazine cover or even the respect from others in the movement but what we do get is the gratification of helping another that was in a similar situation that we also went through and that makes me get up every day.
So as a non-survivor, you can help, but that doesn’t mean you have to lie. You don’t have to be a survivor to have services at all. If you work with survivors of human trafficking and say you empower them, then maybe you should partner with the survivor-run program in your area. After all, why wouldn’t you if you dedicate your services to helping human trafficking survivors?? Couldn’t we help more together then we can a part??
How do you know if someone is a real survivor or not? Pieces of our story grow, but the substance doesn’t change. To me, the people that lie about being a survivor, and misuse money – in my opinion, that’s also a sickness. It sounds like maybe they have gone through something. But shouldn’t we be giving them the right references and referrals so that they can get the help that they need? Shouldn’t we say something when we think the story isn’t correct? Shouldn’t we not try to profit out of it or just say merely that, “well, they’re helping people, so it doesn’t matter”? It matters. It takes away our pain and our struggle as survivors who’ve been doing this in the movement for so long.
But how can you tell? How do you know what organization to support? Because your heart is pure, as a supporter, and you want to help somebody. I like to say: research us. Research the organizations. Look up people’s annual reports. Everything on their IRS form should be public knowledge. Call, ask questions, and I think it’s okay. We won’t get offended if you are asking (in a respectful way) our story because we understand and we’ve been here a long time fighting the cause. We want you to also see the truth in what we do.
Call organizations that work on trafficking in your area and ask them if they partner with survivor-run organizations, and ask them what there definition is as a partner? And if they don’t, why don’t they partner with a survivor run organization?
There are many organizations that are survivor-run that don’t get acknowledgement, and do not get the support that we need. If you would like to support a survivor-run organization and really understand where your funding is going, please check out the next few resources:
Breaking Free, run by Vednita Carter in St. Paul, MN
Veronica’s Voice, run by Kristy Childs in Kansas City, MO
Neet’s Sweets, run by Antonia “Neet” Childs in Charlottesville, NC
MISSSEY, in Oakland, CA
The Sage Project, in San Francisco, CA
Courtney’s House run by Tina Frundt, Washington DC
These are just a few organizations that are doing amazing things by survivors of sex trafficking inside the United States, although it’s hard at times to understand who are real survivors and supporters.
Don’t give up on real survivors. Listen. Ask questions. And support those that you believe are supporting the cause.
Survivor and Founder of Courtney’s House