Tonight the team got to hear from Deborah Rodriguez MD who came all the way from Seattle to meet us. The drive down to Oregon and her encouragement to the team would have been enough by itself; therefore, when Dr. Rodriguez began sharing her knowledge and work with sex trafficking the team was captivated.
Dr. Rodriguez is a pediatrician in the Seattle area and was led into sex trafficking advocacy work by a case of trafficking she did not catch back in the day. She explained to us that a patient had come to see her with a history that should have raised the sex trafficking red flags and due to not being as knowledgeable about the issue, Dr. Rodriguez did not catch this till months later. Since then and for more than a decade Dr. Rodriguez has dedicated her time and work to educating herself, others, and empowering survivors in the medical field. This has led her to learn from survivors first hand and be able to connect internationally with other organizations in the fight against sex trafficking.
The team got to hear about Dr. Rodriguez’s personal method she uses to receive a survivor story of any kind. She calls it the V.E.E.L. Method!
V-Validation. When someone shares a story whether it be a survivor of sex trafficking or a survivor of another type of trauma, she first validates the experience and thanks them for sharing the story with her.
E. Empower. Reminding the person that their experience does not define them and that sharing the story is a brave and courageous thing.
E. Educate. Being honest about what you cannot provide yourself for the person who has experienced trauma and point them in the direction of resources that can help the situation (or help them find resources). Never over promise so you won’t under deliver.
L. Leave the door open. If the person is close to you remind them that you will always be there. If you are not close to them remind them that you are thinking of them and if comfortable give them a way to stay in touch.
Above all, Dr. Rodriguez reminded us that actively listening is the most helpful thing you can do for a survivor.
I have left this interaction with a renewed passion for this cause and an amazing reminder of why we are riding 1700 miles down the coast. It is encouraging to talk to people on all sides of this fight and people who have made this fight their livelihood.
The wisdom that was bestowed on us this evening has impacted the 2021 team and all of our conversations to come.
Thank you Dr. Rodriguez for the wisdom, Rolando(Dr. Rodriguez’s brother) who connected us, and Ms. Mary Jane for hosting- 2021 Pedal the Pacific Team.