If there’s any part of the survivor’s journey I truly hold stock with, it’s living our truths. It’s refusing to hold their secrets, their shame, their guilt and living openly as a survivor. Whilst I truly believe that living openly is one of the most healing things that we can do, it is simultaneously one of the most painful and terrifying things we can do. Each day we choose to expose a new, deeper and rawer level of pain and hurt to those around us. To our friends, our families (if they were safe enough to keep around), to our lovers, to those that read our blogs and our posts. Each day they learn something new about us; a new fear, a new hurt, a new trauma response, a new detail of our herstories and our traumas.
It’s only been the last few months where I’ve been living more openly as a trafficking survivor; I have done so tentatively and anonymously online (and to an extent this blog is still anonymous, though there are those that see these posts through my Facebook and know who I am) but in person it has been my deepest and darkest shame for many years. I now live in a world where my closest friends, my adoptive family, know I was trafficked; where my girlfriend knows and has stood by me despite knowing my healing journey is going to be slow, long and painful; where I have trusted friends and radical allies who I trust enough to allow them to connect this blog with me.
But each day I live with such wariness and cautiousness. I’m constantly waiting for that other foot to fall; waiting for those I love and trust and respect to turn on me. To tell me to be quiet, to be silent, to go back to living in that place of shame and guilt and self-blame. To reject me; to see the dirt and the toxicity I see all over myself and distance themselves from me in case it’s contagious. To start doubting my experiences and my reality; to doubt my pain and my trauma.
Next week I’m taking my next step in living my truth. For the first time, I’m going to speaking in a semi-public light in a meeting with my local MP to discuss the Nordic Model and the dangers in supporting full decriminalisation. I have never in my life made such a bold move in exposing myself as a trafficking survivor; I have spoken online, I have spoke to those close in my life, but to speak to somebody with such a level of authority is something so very new to me. To associate my face, myself, with my own words is a terrifying thought.
I hate to admit it, but I’m scared. I’m scared of exposing myself in such a way, yet at the same time I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do. The sooner abolitionists are able to have their voices heard by Corbyn’s Labour, the better; we know that the pro-sex work lobby aren’t going to hesitate and I have a distinct advantage of living in a constituency with an MP with some degree of power.
I feel so very lost and unsure of myself. Am I in the right place with my healing to do this? Am I anywhere near enough of an eloquent activist to be able to do this? Am I ready to expose myself and my traumas in such a way? Will I even be believed? Am I putting myself at risk by doing this?
I suppose that last question is what’s weighing heavily on my mind, at the moment. I know this MP especially likes her photo opportunities; I’ve followed her blog long enough to know that and linking my face publicly as a trafficking survivor is something that terrifies me. Terrifies me for my own sense of privacy and terrifies me for my sense of safety. I am a trafficking survivor and I know more than my traffickers will want me to know; I know they’re still looking for me and I know I’m going to be spending a good majority of my life looking over my shoulder and exposing myself in such a way is a terrifying thought; even if my name is now one they would not recognise. I’m also slightly worrying on the idea of the DWP finding out somehow and deeming me not disabled if I’m able to pull this off (but then this is a constant fear and somewhat unrelated).
I’m not even sure I can pull this off. I’m nowhere near eloquent enough to get these words out; to paint the true reality of the trafficking and prostitution. I’m not strong enough to do so without either dissociating or breaking down crying.
However, I know this is the right thing to do; I know this is something I need to do. I’ve always known it on some level, I always knew that I was never the kind of person who could just focus on her own healing and leave the activism to others (though, of course, I would never shame survivors who have chosen to focus on their own healing); I’m too much of a class activist and I can never just focus on myself and my own needs, I always knew I was going to speak out one day, so why not now? I need to live my truth, I know it’s so imperative to my own healing and I know how important and valuable my words and experiences are; even if few listen, I know I need to be another voice, a voice of lived experience and stand alongside my brave sisters who are already up there and facing these fears.
So I’m going to this meeting and I’m going to speak; I’m going to make sure my truth is heard and I’m going to do the best I can to ensure nobody leaves that room with any illusions that decriminalisation will be a good thing. I’m a trafficking survivor; I know the reality of that world, I’ve known it since I was five years old and I’m going to use my voice to expose it for what it really is.