We knew we were going to a safe home but we weren’t entirely sure what that meant. They sat us down and said we’d be talking with girls who were being sold for sex, ages ranging from 12-26. What was a 16 year old high school girl supposed to say to that? The next day we drove about an hour out to the safe home and then shared about the joy and hope that is found in Jesus. Then we all sat around a few picnic tables with the strong women from the home and talked about our favorite childhood bands, our pet peeves, and sharing stories about our best friends. We each had strikingly similar answers to these questions. As I am laughing, rejoicing, and looking across the table these women whose smiles bleed with joy and energy, my mind reminds me once again that they are being exploited for someone else’s benefit.
At the end of our time at the safe home, our team debriefed with the founder of a partner organization. “So how did everyone’s conversions go? Did anyone clique with one of the girls at your table?” Tears started aggressively flowing from my eyes and I could feel my heart shatter into pieces at the unjust, everyday reality for these women.
That moment is where my anti-trafficking journey began.
Throughout the remainder of high school I would draw a red “x” on my hand every February. Of course I posted it on instagram to show people that of course I cared about sex trafficking. I would tell people about trafficking, but not really know what I was talking about. I would tell people about how my heart broke for the injustice, but I didn’t really know why. I would tell people they should care too, but I didn’t really know what they could do. Up until my freshman year of college, I was lost and discouraged on what I alone could do. About a month into my freshman year, a friend told me about International Justice Mission, a global anti-trafficking organization, which works with governments and law officials around the world to fight to end trafficking. Freshman year, I joined Auburn’s chapter of IJM which is where my passion for advocacy and after-care has grown into something that I now feel led to pursue the rest of my life. Through IJM, this thing that seemed too big to even begin making a dent in became something that I now see opportunities to fight for every single day. We were each created uniquely and each of us has different giftings that can impact the anti-trafficking world in a mighty way. Your part of this fight may not look like being part of a rescue operation, but it can look like seeking education and sharing that knowledge with others. Even that is so valuable.
Seeing the influx of awareness, but lack of education and advocacy surrounding the anti-trafficking movement is where things like Pedal the Pacific come in. Who knew the fight for justice could look like riding 1,700 miles on a bike?! I’m grateful to be in a community to continue learning, grow in passion, and advocate alongside strong women for strong women.
I ride with PTP so that those whose heart does break for the injustice experienced by survivors can be educated to then become better advocates themselves! Each survivor is worthy of being fought for and each one of us has a voice worthy of joining in on that fight.