We live in a world where trafficking and exploitation of human beings happens every day. This is a reality, most of us know this if we really think about it. What we see and hear about trafficking and exploitation can make our blood boil, break our hearts, and often launches us into sudden and explosive action.
It can feel good to rage, to shout, to share those memes and stories. It can feel good to ‘shut down’ people who voice other perspectives. It can feel good when our perspectives and opinions are validated by other folks who see from the same angle.
What if we are leaving out many important and critical perspectives?
And what if what we do, ends up causing harm?
With all the memes, articles, movies, videos, events, opportunities, and action plans out there…
How do we make sure we’re doing the right things?
How do we make sure we don’t do more damage?
Here are some things to help you get started:
- Believe and follow the lead of those who have been there. Listen to survivors.
- Take the time to get educated on what trafficking really looks like, how it happens, and what survivors are saying about how you can help.
- Keep an open mind and keep learning no matter how long you have been doing this work.
- We know more now than we did yesterday, so keep learning and checking your sources.
- Trafficking doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and we didn’t get here overnight. Recognize that we have a lot of work to do, and that it won’t be easy.
- How you share, and what you share, matters. You are responsible for what you share. So share with caution.
- Remember that spreading misinformation is harmful, no matter what your intention is.
While we are at this, how does misinformation harm others?
- Misinformation tells children to ignore what the trusted person is doing, and to look out for things that are likely no where near what is happening to them.
- Misinformation also strains and distracts investigative resources, and resources for services. This deeply impacts the ability to serve victims and survivors right now and in the future.
- Misinformation benefits abusers and exploiters because it keeps victims and survivors from being able to see them as abusers and exploiters, it also keeps the community distracted and looking for someone else while they continue to abuse and exploit.
- Misinformation harms victims and survivors who may never recognize what is or has happened to them because the stories being shared do not represent the full picture.
I’ll be back with more to say on this issue, but I want to give you something else that will help as you start to think through other ways of doing things.
Before you share that news article, story, or meme, ask yourself:
- What are survivors saying about this issue?
- What is the message to someone who exploits or abuses?
- What is the message to someone who has been abused and exploited, or is currently being abused and exploited?
- What is it I am trying to get across, and why am I trying to tell it?
- Who benefits from the story I am sharing, and the way I am sharing it?
- Who is hurt by the story I am telling and the way I am telling it?