On a gray Monday morning I found myself seated in a waiting room of a Louisville judicial center – definitely not a typical Monday for me! This journey had its beginning a few weeks earlier at a meeting of PATH (Persons Against the Trafficking of Humans), a group of Sisters, Associates and concerned citizens in Louisville who are working to reduce human trafficking in the area. One of our members is a survivor of human trafficking. As a five-year old she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her father and handed over to other men to rape. As often is the case, this is a story wrapped in secrecy. A powerful, intimidating father easily persuaded his daughter to keep his behavior secret.
The story does not end with the destruction of childhood, but surfaced with her father making contact many years later, wanting to mend the relationship with visits. The email contact was made on Father’s Day! Mary, (not her name), asked for our support by praying for her as she goes to court to seek an emergency protective order. She also asked if anyone would join her at the courthouse prior to appearing before the judge. She needed the support of friends who would walk with her during this frightening time, dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
For several years I have been actively involved in addressing human trafficking by supporting legislation, volunteering in SOAP events, attending rallies, prayer vigils and speaking to many groups, but this commitment has made the issue up close and personal. Perhaps this is the greatest contribution we can make when we stand in solidarity with survivors, providing physical presence and emotional support.
This event made it clear that systems fail victims. This abuse over many years was not caught by educational systems, medical systems, legal systems or family. The symptoms were there. The help was not.
The war on women continues in many forms.