Conversations about human trafficking often use the language of war.
We’re fighting slavery. Combatting human trafficking. And anti-trafficking movements – like anti-war movements – abound.
If the fight against trafficking really is like a war, it is a war without hope of any glory.
The world is taken at present with the example of Ukrainian people, whose courage and determination to fight is inspiring. Stories like those of parents and grandparents arming themselves with molotov cocktails, or farmers stealing tanks, make us all wonder if we could be so brave should we be in the same situation.
But for victims of human trafficking, the fight for freedom does not always look so heroic.
Surviving is often a matter of waiting and looking for an opportunity – perhaps holding on for years. While many do resist, it is often safer to succumb, to submit, while secretly keeping alive the hope that one day there will be a chance for escape.
Those who do survive trafficking are likely then to find themselves blamed for their own ordeal. I wrote recently on the blog about this issue, and how even people meaning to do well may be putting survivors through renewed trauma.
Last week, Ly’s ordeal of slavery in Myanmar came to an end after two very long years. She was 19 when she was tricked into following a friend, believing they were off to find a job in a restaurant.
Her time locked into brothels in the Shan state of Myanmar was brutal. Added to the constant violence and threats was her personal shame at being deceived; her failure to provide for her family by finding a proper job; and her guilt at obeying her captors despite the horror she felt.
Blue Dragon helped Ly and two other young women to escape and return to Vietnam by traveling overland. They arrived at the border on Tuesday evening and are now reunited with their families.
But this is no glorious victory against human trafficking for Ly and her friends. It is a victory – given all that has happened, they can be proud just to be alive. Calling for help as they did was a massive risk, and they showed extraordinary bravery to undertake the long journey back to Vietnam.
However, their fight is not over. Being safely home is not the end of Ly’s war. She will live with this trauma for the rest of her life; we can help with that, through counselling and material assistance, but nobody who survives the experience of slavery can simply put it behind them and ‘move on’. The war lives with them, under their skin, for a very long time.
Our world needs peace: an end to war and a start to people living respectfully with each other. Even though the battle that Ly has fought might not have a glorious ending, she should nonetheless inspire us all – simply for surviving.
This is the penultimate blog post! After 6 years of sharing weekly inspiration, I will take a break from the end of March to find some new places and means to tell the stories of Blue Dragon. You can continue follow Blue Dragon’s social media to see more regular updates!