So International Women’s Day is this Thursday, and according to the #IWD official website, this year’s theme is #pressforprogress – but what does that really mean?
In the general context of #IWD, it means pushing for gender parity.
More specifically for #IWD and for the CCAHT, it means challenging stereotypes and bias, forging positive visibility of women, and celebrating women’s achievements.
Back in January, we did a blog series called “Aware” to help raise awareness about human trafficking in our community and answer commonly asked questions regarding the clients we serve. You may remember a blog post written by Shantel, our Director of Survivor Services, called Lessons Learned in Survivor Care (if you haven’t yet, check it out – I’ll wait.)
So anyway, in her post, Shantel wrote something that has been on my mind for the past couple of months. She wrote:
We have made posts recently about tackling the stereotypes of the “typical victim.” Case in point: there is no “typical.” Every survivor we encounter is a new person with a new identity. We focus on the individual as a WHOLE, not just the small part of themselves that may be the “victim” or that simply meets the criteria for being trafficked.
Let that sit for a minute.
…the individual as a whole – not just the small part of themselves that may be the “victim.”
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of letting “victim” and “survivor” be primary qualifiers of folks who have been victimized through human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse, or other types of violent crime.
Me. I know I have.
Because we know that anyone with a vulnerability that can be exploited is at risk for becoming a victim of human trafficking or other violent crime. So it’s easy to blow that vulnerability up and let it be an identifier.
But it isn’t.
Because there isn’t shame in vulnerability, and there shouldn’t be. In fact, in the words of Brene Brown,
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.
Vulnerability doesn’t make us weak; it makes us human. Embracing our vulnerabilities means having the courage to let ourselves be fully known – by ourselves and others. And the moment we begin to think that vulnerability is something broken to be fixed – that’s the moment we shut down opportunities for creativity, progress, and change.
But I digress.
The point of all this is that it takes courage to be vulnerable – but by the same token, our vulnerabilities don’t define us. The ladies we serve aren’t identified by their victimization, just like they aren’t identified by the vulnerabilities that led to that victimization. Their trauma identity doesn’t paint a portrait of who they are. It doesn’t and shouldn’t define how we interface with them.
Their identity as a whole – as a person – is what we should see first.
So this week, in honor of International Women’s Day, that’s exactly what we want to highlight and celebrate. You’ve heard the stories of hope and the stories of change for the clients who have entered our care – but what we want to share with you this week is the stories of these people as they are. Their strengths, their backgrounds, their hopes.
This week, we asked some of our female clients what they would want you to know about them, if they could tell you anything. Because the women we serve? They are tough as nails. They are vibrant, they are funny, they are wise, they are bright. They are creative, they are kind, they are determined, they are breaking the mold.
They are Grace.
They are Destiny.
They are Julia.
They are Zoe.
They are people first. Their story matters. And your support tells them that they are loved, that they can overcome, and that their identity is not trapped in the trauma they’ve suffered.
Be the key to breaking the mold on what the women we serve think is possible, on the change they think can happen, and on the life and love they believe they deserve.
Celebrate #IWD with us this week and follow us on Facebook – all week long, we’ll be sharing with you stories of how the ladies we serve are #breakingthemold.