Adult Survivors of Human Trafficking: Their Truth, Their Healing and Their Hope
Traffickers prey upon vulnerability; this is true of female, male and child survivors, and it happens across the globe.
In West Africa, we work with adult survivors of trafficking. On this National Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2023, I want to speak specifically about adults who, with high hopes, have been enticed to work in the Middle East. These individuals who are seeking a better life, with hopes of decent wages outside their home countries, are preyed upon by those with false promises and the intent to exploit.
Survivors of such exploitation tell us at World Hope, that after raising significant amounts of funds to be able to travel for their assumed work opportunity abroad, they very quickly are forced under the control of a trafficker. Their passports are seized, and they come under local law which essentially prevents them from being out of the residence of their employer alone at any time, from running away and seeking help.
The survivors we serve at World Hope tell us tales of horror. These are tales of being forced to work 20 hours a day. They tell tales of being given very limited amounts of food; not enough to sustain a sedentary person, let alone someone tasked with hours of physical labor. They tell tales of physical and/or sexual assault by their employers. Some return having undergone illicit surgeries with wounds and injuries requiring urgent care upon intake by our staff. Some return with pregnancies as a result of assault. Still others don’t live to tell their tale at all; posts they’ve made on social media are the only evidence we have to piece together a story of their final painful days.
While returning to their home countries is often a source of initial joy and relief – sadly that doesn’t always last. Families and communities who shared the survivor’s high hopes of a foreign income source, have often loaned the survivor large sums of money, with the belief that they will repay it upon arrival back home. When they return without the promised funds, but instead more bills to be paid to heal from the exploitation, families are often not accepting.
In our work at World Hope, we seek to meet these survivors in their vulnerability and walk with them to a more empowered future. We find great joy in welcoming survivors home again; often we are among the first faces they see in the airport upon arrival. We work with them to assess their needs and respond to them. This often means provision of medical care, maternity care, trauma counseling, family and community mediation and at times, residential care.
As we mark this important day together, at the beginning of 2023, may we remember those whose hopes and dreams have been preyed upon and meet them in their vulnerability, to offer them hope for their future.
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