Something I find myself often underestimating is the power of a single voice. It may feel like a single voice or action is just a small thing, easily overlooked or simply forgotten. However, to me, there is no greater weapon we have than to use our voice. I want to share a story about someone who taught me to use my own voice, which eventually landed me here on the Pedal the Pacific team.
Last summer, I packed up my bags and moved home to begin an internship where I would get to learn about working with law enforcement, survivors, and social workers involved in the fight against sex trafficking. When I started this internship, I provided childcare for women coming out of sex trafficking or the sex industry, so they could attend a weekly community group. A few weeks into my internship I was got to speak with the woman who started the organization I was interning with who was a survivor of sex trafficking herself. As I was leaving the meeting, she asked if I would consider moving in to their 30-day stabilization home for women coming out of sex trafficking. After much prayer and consideration, I decided that although I felt totally unequipped for what I would be stepping into, I was going to go. Once I moved into the house, I met a girl who, today, is one of my most precious friends. I learned that my new friend was in the process of testifying against her trafficker in federal court. She was the sole witness in this trial and eventually inspired 7 other women to step up and testify as well. I remember listening to her talking about this and trying to imagine how painful and terrifying this experience must have been for her. To look at her trafficker again and explain the awful things he had put her through. Yet she pressed on in her personal fight for justice, never doubting that truth was stronger than whatever fear was telling her.
I thought about this and realized that fear is often the largest barrier between myself and the things I find worth fighting for. Fear that I may not know enough, that no one will listen, that someone else would be much better at speaking up than I am. However, when I was talking with this same friend one night during the semester, I was reminded of her bravery once again and in that same moment Pedal the Pacific came to mind. I knew right away this was the opportunity for me to use my voice (and hilarious biking skills) to start a conversation. This is how I found myself applying for Pedal the Pacific just 15 minutes before the application closed that night. Even as I filled out that application, I remembered laughing to myself thinking, “what on earth do I think I’m doing there is no way I end up doing this.” But I knew it was time to take the risk and see what would happen. I share all this to say that this experience has already proven so worth it to step into the arena for something I care about. Fear will always be there and that is the fun in truly making the jump into uncertainty.
When I asked my friend what she would like to share with other girls who find themselves in the position she once was, this is what she told me:
“I want to silence the fact that there is no hope, no restoration, that no one’s going to love you, that you’re just going to be stuck in this forever. Because I was in your shoes, I literally sat where you are sitting and I thought the same thing but I am here to tell you that from the other side of where you’re sitting there is redemption, there is hope, there is love. There is restoration that you can have, and I have the resources. If you want to get out of the game, I will be here with you every step of the way and I will help you. And if you don’t, I am still going to be here, I’m still going to love you, and I’m still going to help you through whatever you need help with.”
This is the message I hope to reiterate to survivors, and this is this hope that ignites my passion to end this injustice all together.
This past October my friend’s trafficker was federally charged with sex trafficking hundreds of women across the United States. He is now serving life in prison, where he will no longer have access to these women or any other women for the rest of his life. Thanks to my friend’s bravery and ability to speak up, hundreds more women will not have to experience the same trauma she did.
I hope this story inspires you just as much as it did for me, to join in the fight for justice, apply for something you might think you’re not capable of, and to push past whatever fear is standing in your way. We can no longer sit back and wait for things to change, until all are free!