Ending Human Trafficking by Creating Safety
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” – David W. Augsburger
This quote has been resonating with me lately.
A few days ago, I sat with an utterly dejected 14-year-old in a hospital room. She had been sexually assaulted by her mom’s boyfriend (multiple times). When her mom found out, instead of protecting and comforting her child, she lashed out and physically abused her daughter.
Not the predatory boyfriend.
It’s hard to fathom these dynamics, I know.
The 14-year-old was crying when I walked into her room. She wouldn’t look at me and she didn’t want to talk about any of the abuse that had landed her in the Emergency Department.
So, I showed curiosity about other parts of her life and just listened. I asked her about school, her friends, what she watches on Tik Tok, and what her dreams are. I asked about her pets, places she would like to visit, and what she likes about herself.
She couldn’t answer my last question. She didn’t know what she liked about herself. She was clearly neglected, starved for emotional connection, and completely broken.
After asking questions and listening for about 20 minutes she slowly started to open up to me. It’s always an honor to create safety and build a connection with a kid who has experienced so much trauma.
But I am not the only one who understands these dynamics. Predators and abusers use the same techniques of showing curiosity, interest, and hearing kids out, to make them feel seen and heard. Only their motivation is much different than mine.
She disclosed that she has been targeted and harmed by abusers over and over and over. And there are currently no safe adults in her life.
And yes, she has a phone, making her an even easier target for online predators.
My heart broke as she told me about how a naked photo of her (that had been coerced out of her by an older male at school, who had made her feel special) had circulated all over school and that she now didn’t have any friends in her classes. She was curled up in a little ball, with tears streaming down her face, as she disclosed this exploitation. This was just one of many awful things she has experienced in her short life.
In the same way that we can meet kid’s needs and help them heal, predators and abusers can also meet their needs and manipulate them.
It’s so vitally important for healthy adults to connect with vulnerable kids. Creating healthy relationships and meeting the emotional needs of kids can make a huge difference in decreasing their vulnerabilities and decreasing the chances of them being harmed.
People always ask how they can help end human trafficking. This is exactly it, it’s a simple as creating safety for a kid who desperately needs it.