There are weeks of my life when I share a lot of myself. I’m not just talking about my time and resources—I also share my life story publicly on a regular basis. Although public speaking and advocating are two things I’m passionate about, last week was one of those weeks where I exhausted everything I had leaving me feeling burnt-out and run into the ground. During this wearied episode, a lingering thought came to mind, a notion I had noticed before but ignored. It screamed for my attention…
Will the world ever stop viewing me through the narrow lens of a human trafficking survivor?
The contrast of how survivors are viewed was so apparent the week I traveled with an ally and a friend (who is not a survivor of sexual exploitation), to various speaking engagements across Northeast Florida. At each event, the questions people asked me were very different than what they asked her. The way people treated me was very different than the way they treated her. I was esteemed because I overcame something evil, while she was esteemed for the incredible work she is doing to help women like me.
These encounters brought me to a place of discontentment, uncomfortable conversations, and lingering thoughts: “Why do I keep trying to share what I know about sexual exploitation and human trafficking? That’s not what people want to hear from me anyways, they just want to hear about my past. I’m just hurting myself and wasting my time by trying to share my expertise! I’m so sick of telling my story! I have so much more to offer than that!”
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here, we all have moments of feeling defeated. I’m at my best when advocating for other women and speaking on the issues of human trafficking, this is the thing that drives me. In that moment of wrestling with my own inadequacies and insecurities, I was reminded of Rahab’s story and how the world, to this day, still views her…
Rahab the prostitute.
What about Rahab, the woman who accomplished the impossible? Rahab, the woman of great faith. Rahab, who assisted in the first conquest that would be the beginning of the Israelite people coming to inhabit the Promised Land. Rahab, who hid the two spies Joshua sent into Jericho and confirmed that her people trembled at the thought of the Israelites and their powerful, sea-parting God. Rahab, who risked her own life for what she believed in. Rahab, who pleaded with the spies to spare her life and the lives of her family members. Yes, that Rahab, who was labeled a prostitute, she was a woman who bravely assisted in shaping the future of an entire nation!
Rahab had crazy grit and audacious faith and, so do I and, so do other survivors who are leading the charge against the exploitation of their past and the epidemic of re-exploitation that is taking place in the present. Yes, we are leading the charge, do not miss the critical point that we understand that our stories are a learning tool, but we also have so much more than that to share. We have experience, expertise, and knowledge that no level of education could equate. Value us for the work WE do as survivors, value us as the women we have become, not just what we have overcome.
I take up Rahab’s case, just as my own and that of other survivors. Just like Rahab, survivors will continue to walk boldly and accomplish great things to shape a future free of exploitation.
Jamie Rosseland works at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center as a Survivor-Mentor with the Open Doors Outreach Network. She actively and passionately strives to offset the negative impact of human trafficking for victims in Northeast Florida through mentorship and advocacy. By sharing her lived experiences and unique perspective, Jamie is driven to change the cultural view of the sex trade industry. Prior to joining the Policy Center, she was the Marketing Coordinator at Rethreaded, a nonprofit whose focus is to provide viable and creative employment to domestic survivors.