Happy Independence Day to everyone in the United States! This week, plenty of families will get together to cook out, watch fireworks, and reflect on our country’s freedom. It seems like the people who really understand and appreciate freedom are those who have had it taken away.
Sadly, not everyone is free, even today.
Across the world and in the United States, many people are trapped in modern-day slavery, also known as human trafficking. It is predicted that there are currently 200,000 victims of human trafficking in the United States alone.
Colleen Stratton, an advocate for Eye Heart World, will enjoy Fourth of July fireworks with her family and reflect on her freedom, but her definition is a bit different than others. Colleen is a survivor of human trafficking.
Her life did not change overnight, and Colleen had to endure a long journey to get to where she is now. I had a conversation with her, and she told me about some freedoms that she enjoys today that are denied to those who are trafficked.
- Freedom from being owned by anyone. This is the basis of human trafficking: ownership of another person, robbing them of their agency and humanity. This is one of the most extreme obstructions to freedom, when your entire life is controlled by another person. Aside from the big picture, there are other kinds of freedom that victims of trafficking are denied.
- Freedom to say “no”. When a person is trafficked, they cannot make decisions for themselves. They cannot say “no” to things that they do not want to do. They cannot define their own comfort zone, which is an essential part to living life freely.
- Freedom from the need to steal food. Traffickers do not allow their victims to own their own possessions or even money that they make. These desperate times and empty stomachs lead to desperate measures, including stealing food.
- Freedom to sleep peacefully in a bed. When Colleen was in the life, the abandoned buildings and motels she stayed in made it very hard for her to sleep. The uncertainty of what she would wake up to lead to an anxiety that kept her running on very few hours of scattered, restless sleep.
- Freedom from living in jails and institutions. Many victims of sex trafficking are in and out of jails after being arrested for prostitution, drug possession and other charges. Not only does life in a jail severely restrict freedoms, but the knowledge that at any time you could be returned to jail takes a heavy mental toll.
- Freedom from feeling shame and disgust in your body. Many victims of sex trafficking have backgrounds of abuse. That trauma combined with being trafficked can combine to a deep-seated insecurity with their body. Instead of feeling comfortable and confident, they might feel dirty and unworthy.
- Freedom from addiction. Colleen says that she was “shackled by the chains of addiction to drugs and alcohol”. Trafficking and addiction often go hand in hand, and traffickers often force their victims to use drugs so that they are more compliant and able to work more. Breaking the grip of addiction is a long, painful process.
Freedom from living in fear. In a life filled with uncertainty and danger, fear lurks around every corner. This can be fear of people, fear of places, and fear of what tomorrow might bring. This fear prevents trafficking victims to feel a sense of calm and peace.
- Freedom from “being chased by darkness”. Colleen stated that she has felt like she was chased by darkness her whole life. She used drugs and alcohol to escape and hide from this darkness, but she eventually found light in her life through a relationship with Jesus. In the life, it can be very difficult to find or maintain any kind of religion or spirituality. For Colleen, her faith that she grew played an enormous role in helping her to her own freedom.
- Freedom to be who God has created you to be. After her long journey out of the life, Colleen feels free to be who she was always meant to be: a wife, a mom, and a light of hope to those who still live in darkness.
Colleen is a powerhouse of light and hope, and a dedicated advocate for trafficking victims and survivors in Green Bay. She is one of our team members and dearest friends at Eye Heart World and a while back, Colleen was gracious enough to tell her story in her own words on video. For Colleen’s full story, watch her video here.
We work tirelessly to help other young ladies find the healing and freedom that Colleen now enjoys. And you can be a part of that too! Click here to give for freedom and be a part of this story of freedom.