Categories for Monthly Reflections

March, 2023 Monthly Reflection

March 1, 2023

How many slaves work for us?

By Maria Elena Perales

Do we, as consumers, know how we contribute to forced labor? For example, the clothes we wear, the coffee we drink, and the fish and chocolate we consume all contribute to our slavery footprint. Have we ever considered how many slaves work for us?

Find out at by simply answering a few questions about our lifestyle, it gives us a glimpse of how we, as individuals contribute to the demand for forced labor. Whether we like it or not, forced labor becomes personal when we purchase goods and services from industries that rely on forced labor because we create a profit incentive for those benefitting from forced labor.

Traffickers are estimated to exploit over 40 million victims; 25 million are victims of forced labor. Because forced labor can occur at multiple points through the supply chain, from harvesting raw materials to the point where products are sold, the collaboration between corporations, policymakers, and consumers plays a crucial role in eradicating this insidious crime against our vulnerable brothers and sisters.

There is reason to be optimistic since consumers’ awareness of forced labor is increasing. We, as consumers, want to purchase with the purpose of not only speaking up against forced labor but also bringing awareness about corporate social responsibility. We must use our purchasing power to eradicate slave labor in the supply chain. How about inquiring which corporations are implementing guidelines to hold their suppliers responsible? Buying fair trade chocolate to provide a sustainable future for those harvesting cocoa/making the product or researching the best place to purchase forced labor-free clothes and making corporations accountable is a good step forward. If we see an inexpensive garment for sale, we should know that the item is most likely cheap because someone else has paid the full price.

Some guides and lists are provided to us to make ourselves aware and keep updated on ways to make a difference. We know the U.S. Department of Labor published a list of goods produced by child labor or forced labor by country. A buying guide also offers a list of slave-free products supplied by companies ranked on their antislavery policies, supply chain transparency, and third-party certification. Going through these lists and figuring out what to purchase can be overwhelming, especially if we are on a fixed budget. What is one to do? Perhaps we become more involved in our parish, community, or with USCSAHT and share anything we learn amongst our friends, family, and colleagues.  Getting together and sharing our frustrations and challenges and finding one thing in which we can all engage can empower us as ONE.

Maria Elena Perales, Director of the St. Joseph Justice Center for Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, is a member of the USCSAHT Board of Directors.


February, 2023 Monthly Reflection

February 1, 2023

Freedom Is Coming

Judy Molosky, CSJ

February 8th is the Feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita (ca.1869-8 February 1947). All who work to end Human Trafficking take Josephine as our model of how to live in hope while in bondage. We pray for the same energy and vision that Josephine had as we work for freedom for all those caught in chains today.

Let us pray: that freedom will come for all victims of Human Trafficking.

The following prayer service was designed for the Walk For Freedom – January 2023 Blessed Sacrament Church, Hollywood, CA with the background South African Apartheid hymn by the Marymount Singers.

Leader: Pope Francis reminds us that: “Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that has become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society.”

Reader 1: Our adapted Scripture reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. Chapter 58: 6-9 This is the sort of fast that is pleasing to me: Remove the chains of injustice and undo the ropes of the yoke.

Reader 2: Let those who are oppressed go free and break every yoke you encounter.

Reader 1: Share your bread with those who are hungry and shelter those who are experiencing homelessness and poverty.

Reader 2: Clothe those who are naked and don’t hide from the needs of your own flesh and blood.

Reader 1: Do this, and your light will shine like the dawn and your healing will break forth like lightning. The Word of God.

ALL: Thanks be to God

Response to the Reading:

Leader: Human trafficking and slavery are illegal in every country, but present in every nation on Earth. Let us take a moment of silence in solidarity with those who suffer from the chains of human trafficking.

[Time of Silence]

Leader: Let us join together in prayer for those caught in the chains of Human Trafficking

Our response to each petition is: May chains be broken and dignity restored.

  • For all of the women, men and children who will be trafficked today, we pray… May chains be broken and dignity restored.
  • For the parents who have lost their children through human trafficking, we pray… May chains be broken and dignity restored.
  • For children and young people who are being exploited online, we pray… May chains be broken and dignity restored.
  • For the conversion of heart for those who are traffickers, we pray… May chains be broken and dignity restored.
  • For all those engaged in education and advocacy to end human trafficking, we pray… May chains be broken and dignity restored.
  • That we may recognize and safely report human trafficking in our midst, we pray… May chains be broken and dignity restored.

LEADER: Pope Francis reminds us:
“The work of raising awareness must begin at home, with ourselves, because only in this way will we be able to then make our communities aware, motivating them to commit themselves so that no human being may ever again be a victim of trafficking.” (Pope Francis, February 2018)

Reader 1: Closing Prayer: God of all peoples, awaken our hearts and deepen our commitment to work for a world where all are free and able to live lives full of hope and dignity. Please help us grow in awareness that you are present in each person and that we are intimately connected to all involved in human trafficking. God of hope and freedom, inspire us in our work to end human trafficking, starting within our own communities. Amen.

Song: “Freedom Is Coming” (Andres Nyberg) Marymount Singers

January, 2023 Monthly Reflection

January 1, 2023

May Justice Flourish

Jeanne Christensen, RSM

In our day may justice flourish and peace abound throughout all the nations! (Psalm 72: 7)

We must pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the world for whom justice is simply an illusion. Among these are persons traumatized by the evil of human exploitation, in particular the tragedy of commercial sex and labor trafficking.

January 2023 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the United States.  The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking and the feast of St. Josephine Bahkita, the patroness of human trafficking survivors, are celebrated on February 8.  You are encouraged to focus more deliberately on addressing the tragedy of human trafficking.

There are approximately 50 million children, women, and men caught in the vicious grip of exploitation and human trafficking throughout the world. Nearly double what it was 10 years ago.  Although illegal in every country, many countries serve as a source, transit, or destination for this crime.  Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex.  If the person is a minor, under the age of 18 and is exploited in any way, she or he is considered trafficked.  It is a serious crime defined under U.S. Federal Law.  Exploitation and human trafficking occur because predators thrive on holding power over and gaining profit from other vulnerable human persons whom they consider objects and property to be bought and sold.

Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbors, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.”  Pope Francis, World Day of Peace 2015, #4

Thankfully, Pope Francis, world religious leaders, and thousands of others are raising awareness about trafficking and working toward its eradication. Specifically, what can you do to raise awareness and to eradicate human trafficking?

  1. Keep informed about human trafficking locally and nationally. Contact the appropriate authority, security guard, sheriff, local police or law enforcement if you think a person is being exploited.
  2. Check where your groceries, clothes, household items come from. Avoid buying products, which may be produced by exploited and trafficked workers. Wherever possible buy ‘Fair Trade’ and locally produced products. This helps reduce workers exploited through labor trafficking.
  3. Challenge your elected legislators at local, state and federal levels to address root causes of poverty, violence, racism and discrimination in all its forms, especially against women and girls. Insist on human rights-based policies.
  4. Befriend and assist asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers in your local church or community. Their stories may well reflect exploitation of some form.
  5. Pray for groups involved in supporting trafficked victims – the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking as well as other non-profit organizations. Offer to volunteer and/or to support them financially.
  6. Celebrate the feast of St. Josephine Bahkita – a former slave – on February 8th, designated as the International Day of Prayer Awareness against human trafficking.
  7. Follow the ‘social media feeds’ of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking to keep updated and to get involved whenever possible.

We each have been touched by God’s mercy and compassion and fired by the inspiration of the Gospel.  We are called and challenged to accompany, advocate, educate and collaborate with others who strive for justice, in opposition to all forms of human trafficking and exploitation.

December, 2022 Monthly Reflection

December 1, 2022

Lights of Hope in the Darkness

Anne Victory, HM

The time has just changed from daylight savings to standard time for many across the world, and in the northern hemisphere, the days are shorter, darker, and in some regions, colder. World, national and local events seem to add to the darkness and cold as we are inundated with news stories about war, violence, political divisions, hostile rhetoric about the “other,” climate disasters, and those millions who are left out in the cold, both literally and figuratively. All of these have the potential to increase the crime of human trafficking. Often the ones who suffer from this devastating and pernicious crime are being blamed for their own plight. It’s easy for them—and for all who long to help—to become overwhelmed, even to the point of despair.

By contrast, we are beginning the season of Advent, a time of waiting in darkness and hope for the Promised One. The longing is palpable! The visions of a world without weapons of war and flourishing lands, deserts full of blooms, and bright light in the seemingly endless gloom.

Are these promises for our world today, too? What are the signs of hope? When will the oppressed go free? Where is the light? In reflecting on the Scriptural promises, I have become aware that the Promise is both “now” and “not yet.” Our God is both among us and also is coming in fullness. This Advent “in-between time” calls us to participate in bringing the light, the hope, and the promise to fulfillment.

Perhaps a place to begin is to recognize some signs of hope that have become apparent over the past decade or so in the work to end human trafficking. Many more people have become aware of this pressing issue and acknowledge that it is occurring in our world, our nation, and our neighborhoods. So many individuals and groups are now working together and shining a light to raise awareness of this crime, intervene in healing ways, and advocate for just laws and services for those who have been trapped in the vice of criminal enterprises for forced labor and commercial sex. Strides have been made to connect disciplines and businesses, inviting them to bring their expertise to the table so that those affected receive needed treatment in a manner that respects their dignity and does no further harm to them as persons. National and international networks have grown to provide needed resources of credible information, shared expertise, and ways to get help and care for those who suffer from this crime. Many are beginning to see the connections between poverty, forced migration, climate change, discrimination, and other critical social issues and the crime of human trafficking.

Is there more to do? Of course? Can we do better? Certainly! Let us continue to build strong relationships with one another and with those who share a vision of ending human trafficking. Let us strive to be light-bearers, bringers of hope, signs of the Promised One among us in the face of a suffering world.

November, 2022 Monthly Reflection

November 11, 2022


Sally Duffy, SC

Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently began bussing immigrants to places such as New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC to draw attention to more traditional cities governed by Democrats. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida financed the flying of immigrants, many from Communist Venezuela, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

This action is appalling and inhumane. Sadly, the tactics are similar to human trafficking, as if the ends justify the means of dehumanizing people. Many traffickers use psychology to keep their victims “enslaved.” Dehumanized, and treated as commodities or political pawns, these are mostly families without passports, who speak a different language, and wear only the clothes on their backs. These migrants are fleeing violence and life-threatening situations. Homelessness, hunger, extreme poverty, and violence are some of the reasons to risk a life-threatening journey to the United States border. Given the conditions of needing to migrate, the luring and promising of food, jobs, housing, etc. can be convincing tactics to persuade someone to board a plane.

This luring, false promises, fraud, emotionally abusive mischaracterization of immigrants, and deception about opportunities are tactics traffickers use. Isolation and total dependency are also tactics of traffickers. There was no communication and care coordination regarding the arriving immigrants by either governor.

There are economic and other reasons for calling these actions unjust and appalling. This truly is a moral issue; this is about who we are as Christians. Because we are all made in the unique image and likeness of God, and we are all called to welcome the stranger. “When I was an immigrant, you welcomed me.”

Immigrants have inherent dignity, a dignity given to them by God our creator. They are also a result of the incarnation, the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Therefore, they have shared membership in our society and our Church because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. We are a people of faith. Believing in the Trinity, the image and likeness of the Trinity means that we are relational, a community, personal, mutual, inclusive, and we are an accompanying people.

The question, “Who is my neighbor?” is the question we are asked on a daily basis. Our neighbor is the person God puts in front of us. Our neighbor is the person in need.  Compassion and mercy call us to reach out to the immigrant and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Philippians also teaches us that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and that there are laws greater than the laws of any country. Yes, laws are important but laws can also break people rather than help people.

I have many people that say to me, “But Sister, they are illegal.” God does not make anyone illegal or illegitimate. I do not know about you, but sometimes I break the law by speeding. Sometimes I do not catch that green light that has turned yellow and then is all of a sudden red. Now, maybe that never happens to you. My reasons for speeding are not the same reasons that immigrants leave their homes. They are doing it to save their children. Migrants are doing it because God is calling them to live out their God-given dignity and shared membership. The law is breaking them. Moreover, why is the law breaking them? It is because our immigration system is broken, antiquated, and needs to be fixed.

United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Conference in their statements on immigration calls us to radical hospitality, to welcome, and to take risks out of love. In the words of Pope Francis, “If we want security, then let’s give security, if we want life, then let us give life, if we want opportunities, then let us provide opportunities.” Our American values call us to human rights, liberty, and the international common good. Jesus came to liberate the captives and set free the oppressed.

Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters who are in the shadows, silenced, and oppressed, who if they are sent back to their country of origin, would be sent back to be killed, raped, or to be forced to be part of gangs. Let us pray to avoid complicity in the tactics of human traffickers and the conditions of human trafficking. Let us pray for the grace to know the needs of our brothers and sisters and to take the crucified down from their crosses.


October, 2022 Monthly Reflection

October 1, 2022

How Bad Can a Chocolate Pumpkin Be?

Jeanne Christensen, RSM

The Catholic Health Association has a spring campaign called “How Bad Can a Chocolate Bunny Be?”  Let’s plagiarize and ask “How bad can a chocolate pumpkin be? Or a chocolate turkey? Or a chocolate Christmas tree?”

How bad? The main ingredient in chocolate is cocoa; and when one considers the harvesting of cocoa, one must also consider the harvesters.  The U.S. Department of Labor reports millions of children are exploited by labor trafficking—working long, arduous hours for little or no pay.

Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer of cocoa, the raw ingredient for chocolate, and is responsible for about 36 percent of global exports. The Ivorian cocoa trade is mired in the exploitation of children, war and corrupt profits for officials and western big chocolate business. It is estimated that a quarter of a million children work in hazardous conditions on Ivorian cocoa farms, in spite of a pledge by the world’s biggest chocolate companies more than seven years ago to abolish forced child labor from their supply chain.  Ghana is also a major producer of cocoa and child labor is found there as well.

The U.S. Department of Labor published their 2022 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.  This 116-page report includes clear and specific detail and information.  It identifies seven countries where cocoa is harvested by a child or forced labor.  These countries are Brazil, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.  To learn more, visit The Department of Labor.

One of Catholic Social Teaching’s principles, The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, says “The economy must serve people, not the other way around.  Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.  If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected – the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”

How can we help ensure the dignity of work and rights of workers?   We can purchase fair trade products; in the upcoming holiday seasons, when cocoa and chocolate are staples, we can purchase online or locally fair trade products from one or more of the companies listed at the end of this reflection.

By purchasing fair trade products, we avoid chocolate produced through the exploitation of child labor. Fair trade is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production and supply of a product or ingredient. For farmers and workers, fair trade means workers’ rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. For shoppers, it means high-quality, ethically produced products. Many companies offer fair trade cocoa and chocolate, along with many other products.

It is important that we consider our own consumerism – our desire for less-expensive, easily-acquired products; and to remember those who are exploited in order to grow, harvest, produce or sell such items.  Pope Francis says: “Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers.  Every person out to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act.”

For additional information:   End Slavery Now and Food is Power

If fair trade products are not available locally, they can be purchased online at any one of the following websites:

Additional information on fair trade chocolate



August, 2022 Monthly Reflection

August 1, 2022

Why not use the word “slavery” when referring to trafficking?

Sister Michelle Loisel, DC

Picture by Martha Dansberger

Over the past few months, there have been several articles written and discussions at webinars I have attended on the words “slavery” and “trafficking.”

It is common in the anti-trafficking field (either in campaigns or in policy) to link colonial slavery with human trafficking by reference to “modern slavery.”

These terms have been used by several organizations and individuals who were unaware of the deeper meaning of this terminology with regard to the victims. “Technical definitions of ‘slavery’ and ‘human trafficking,’ as well as related concepts like forced labor, child labor, and bonded labor differ slightly legally, but there are enormous overlaps between them. Many of these terms are commonly used interchangeably, as ultimately, they all involve practices that exploit or abuse someone physically or psychologically for profit.”

We must place ourselves here in the historical American context and see if slavery has indeed ended. Another point is that historical slavery was legal, certainly inhuman but legal, human trafficking is not. In this same context, slavery is based on race, exploitation is based on rape culture, abuse, and sexism.

Unfortunately, while “slavery” is eye-grabbing and makes awareness easy, it paints a problematic picture of human trafficking. Human trafficking and historical slavery in the U.S. have similarities, however, framing like this is troubling as they are not the same (National Survivor Network, 2019).

This language minimizes historical enslavement of African people and the multi-generational trauma and resulting impact. It can also be harmful to survivors, as it paints an inaccurate picture of many trafficking experiences.

It should be noted that now, chattel slavery and the slave trade are now illegal in every country in the world and under international law (Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). However, estimates say there are more people trapped in conditions of modern slavery today than there were slaves, even when slavery was legal.

Survivors to whom I spoke of human trafficking do not connect their experiences with “slavery” and certainly would not identify as “slaves” We can recognize that other survivors may identify with this term, and we can acknowledge their individual right to self-identify. We also are aware that using this terminology may make it harder for some who have been trafficked to recognize and acknowledge the exploitation perpetrated against them. As advocates, we cannot cease to be vocal and address the reality that victims of trafficking in the United States are disproportionately people of color.

In the context, we are living today including the historical context we understand that associating the crime of human trafficking with chattel slavery can be harmful for African American. Slavery and human trafficking are not equal experiences; to use the same term “slavery” to describe two separates but equally brutal injustices may not be accurate. There is a glaring discrepancy between the way powers have addressed slavery in the past and present and we need to recognize the ways nations have exploited and oppressed people of color.

This reflection led me to a moment of pause and self-reflection and allowed me to realize the power of words. Why do I use this language? Who is it benefitting? And more importantly, who is it harming?

July, 2022 Monthly Reflection

July 7, 2022

Land of the Brave? Yes. Home of the Free? Not really.

Theresa Flores

July has always been one of my favorite months. My family always held our annual Family Reunion on the 4thof July in Indiana and got together each year with those with whom we shared a blood bond. It felt safe, you didn’t need to explain yourself and it was fun to find out how similar we all were and what common traits we all held. Not to mention the amazing food like tomato pie, popcorn right from the field, fresh walnuts, pickled eggs (not my favorite) and even homemade wine—all freshly made by our farm family members. But as I sit here reflecting on my own family, so many of them lost in the past several years and knowing that it will never be the same again, I recall all the hundreds of survivors of Human Trafficking who I have met—many of them who have never been to a family reunion. They have never spent time running around a field with sparklers, water gun fights with cousins and crazy uncles, eating homemade ice cream they helped churn, or even going to a parade. Approximately 40% of survivors are trafficked by family members and when they are fortunate enough to escape, many are forced to leave their entire family.

In July, while we celebrate FREEDOM, most people don’t realize that there are still many who have never known what this word means. Victims of trafficking, enslaved to the will of others, including those not being paid for hours of back-breaking work in a tomato field, those being forced to do more than massages in a massage parlor, and children used as objects of gratification—none of them know freedom. Yes, right here in America. Victims and survivors of trafficking are certainly representative of who we are referencing when we talk about the Home of the Brave, but they are certainly not experiencing the Land of the FREE.

As we sit and watch a 20-minute firework display (on which thousands of dollars were spent), chatting with an aunt we haven’t seen in years, going up to the buffet line of the 4th of July potluck picnic, most of us don’t stop to question if the worker who harvested the tomatoes on the table was paid a fair price for his work, or if the shrimp was harvested by an ethical company. We take for granted the word Freedom and believe All are free. But unfortunately, this isn’t true.

My family moto on our crest reads “Justice Will Prevail.” I know this to be true in my bones but there were plenty of times I doubted it. Especially while being sold to men and forced into debt bondage as a teenager. Although my faith remained strong, even during the worst of the times, there were many occasions, even after escaping, that I wondered if this was really true. My attempts to prosecute the traffickers led to dead ends, finding qualified counseling to help me heal the trauma was fruitless, and I had no one to talk to about what I endured who could possibly understand.

So, what does justice look like to me now? To an Irish Catholic, middle aged woman (ok, maybe a little older than that) who once was not free? It looks like this: stronger laws in every state (with law enforcement and judges who will enforce them) to help stop the Demand for sex for sale, tougher penalties against the traffickers but also the perpetrators- the buyers. It looks like services for survivors who need a bed, trained counselors, drug addiction help, being reunited with the children that were taken from them, dental help for the teeth they lost at the hands of their traffickers, programs for gay youth who are kicked out of their homes and are now vulnerable and ‘sitting ducks’, and many good lawyers who will help survivors get restitution and their records erased.

Freedom isn’t Free. It requires a lot. It requires more than us dressing up in an “America is Great” t-shirt, eating our apple pie and going to see fireworks. It requires strong men uniting to fight against this injustice instead of being a part of the problem and being brave enough to call it out for what it is to other men. It means that we will view prostitution as an oppression instead of a profession.

It requires what it once did- fighting a war against what is UNJUST. It requires us to open up our eyes to truly see what is happening right next to us. And then doing something about it.

Let us not take Freedom for granted.

June, 2022 Monthly Reflection

June 2, 2022

“That they all may be one.” John 17:21

By Margaret Louise Brown

Christ’s Farewell Discourse, as written in the Gospel of John, shares His final request.  That humans live together as one.

At the same time, the Bible reminds us that humans are easily distracted by their desire for worldly values: power, money, status, possessions, etc.  It also reminds us of the need to guard against seeking for oneself and to maintain a focus on the needs of all.

When the gifts given to us at our creation are developed and used, some will excel in the Arts and Sciences or Business and Leadership.  Yet, others will become the heartbeat of our lives; excelling in Support, Service, Implementation, Conservation, Family life, etc. “We can’t have one without the other” (to paraphrase a song). We were created to be a harmonious, interlocking puzzle which, if one or more pieces are diminished, the picture becomes unbalanced.

The “haves” and “have nots” have existed throughout human history. Because of our innate human weaknesses, we tend to value self-preservation over preservation of humanity as a whole. Whether that self (family) preservation is driven by fear, greed, or other personal motives, the result has allowed for sub-categories of humans – those who don’t have as much value, whose voice doesn’t count. As such, they can be used for the benefit of those who perceive themselves as having the “right” to control others, even unto death.

Sociologists have long identified the passage from common good to self-preservation begins when members of a particular society no longer need one another for survival. In the United States, some would say that happened after World War II, with the establishment of the Middle Class, when society’s economic slogan moved from, “A chicken in every pot” to “two cars in every garage.” Then came the implementation of the Trickle Down economic theory of the 1980s. Studies now show that the theory failed due to human nature. On average the benefits of implementing the theory stayed at the highest level of business: the owners, their families, and up to three management levels down in the organization. The workers themselves not only didn’t benefit from the “rising tide,” they fell behind, and wealth inequity only increased.

Greed, desire for power, fear, anger, despondency, and resurgence of “rugged individualism” have become primary drivers in society today. The prevalent message seems to be that it is okay to categorize, to demean, to abuse, or to traffic others, for one’s own benefit; to keep what one has, make sure “ours” are taken care of first, or to get what we want. Regardless of how it affects the other.

Is Jesus’s desire still doable?

Jesus’ desire is still relevant, still doable. Some may say it is impossible to change the power dynamics of our society, but I don’t agree. I believe there are good people who believe in Jesus’ plea to His Father, whether by inherent belief or from the teachers in their lives.  Unfortunately, the noise of the world has muted their voices. Some see the tide so strong against the good, they have given up.

But it is never too late for God. What He requires is like-minded people to push back against self-focused policies and belief systems. New prophets must emerge, believing the words from Luke 12:12, “For the Holy Spirit will teach you, at the moment, what you should say.” We are all called to be voices for good—for the common good. Polarized mass media has, for the most part, hijacked public messaging, but we have God-given gifts to work together to move the needle toward the good. It only requires us to take the risk and speak up.

Like the Victory Gardens of World War II, we must believe that our individual contributions can make a difference. Take time out of your busy schedule to find one initiative to engage in. Speak out to the people in your community and to leaders, both locally and nationally. If each one of us would take a step, we will, God willing, truly live the great experiment of our American democratic republic, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In other words, “We are all one.”

May, 2022 Monthly Reflection

May 1, 2022

Words Survivors Want to Hear

Kathleen Bryant RSC

We have so much to learn from the soulful stories of victims, survivors, and thrivers from their experience of being trafficked. We have even more to learn from their collective wisdom and resilience.

I invited survivors/thrivers to share the words they most wanted to hear when first free as well as when they claimed themselves as survivors and then thrivers. In the responses, the women also shared words and phrases that are not acceptable or helpful. I will never forget the response of a woman I interviewed about 15 years ago when she expressed gratitude for being called a “survivor” and not a victim. Thanks to each of the survivors who responded to this request and to the sisters in our member houses of USCSAHT, who graciously invited their members to share.

The first response received reads like a meditation, a kernel of wisdom born out of life experience and suffering. Margeaux wished she had heard:

“You are not alone. I know you might be afraid and hurting. I hold space for you.
Also, I honor the courage and strength it took for you to step onto the journey of freedom.
It is a process and you have within you what it takes to heal and grow.
Do not be afraid to reach out for support and accept help.
You deserve it. There is hope.” Margeaux Gray

What are helpful words during the first hours and days when a woman is finally freed? Here are some words and feelings the women mentioned that they longed to hear when first free.

Pasi’s response is a prayer of gratitude and notable in that it includes a prayer for others: Thank you! Thank you, God! Hope that everyone can be OK and stronger. Siti Pasinah

What I would have liked to hear is, “we’re here to help you.”

An immediate need is rest! As one thriver remembers: The word that is coming up for me is Rest. Our healing happens when we sleep. There is no room for our human needs when we were trafficked and the process of getting away from trafficking is exhausting and frightening. And there isn’t a lot of validation for the need to rest in any corner of society. Yet what survivors often need immediately after being trafficked is a chance to sleep, rest and recover. Survivors need to hear it is ok to lay our heads down.

I wanted to hear “I believe you. I am here for you, no matter what you want to do.” Now, I mainly just want to see that people are safe by their behavior, not so much their words. But, as a trans nonbinary person, it’s still important to feel seen, heard, and safe in my own skin. “I accept you, and you are so important to me for exactly who you are. Your life is so valuable.” Charlie Quinn Tebow

You’ll adjust just fine. Your future holds much more.

God is good! you can pursue your dreams and desires now.

Once free, meeting other survivors is key.

As a victim I would have want to have heard from survivors on the other side to see that my world wasn’t over. I also would love to have heard some compassion from the police instead of laughing at me or saying they would be taking me home if they weren’t on the clock. As a survivor, I still need to remember and hear it wasn’t my fault and I deserve a happy healthy life just like anyone else.

I wanted to hear that you are not alone on this planet, that they understand me, they will help me and will not leave me alone until I can take care of myself financially. I want to hear that I’m safe and all the horrors are over.

Jasmine Grace Marino said that she needed to hear, “You are loved. You are washed clean. Forgiven. Made New!” “God is love” was revolutionary for me because I had been searching for it my entire life in people, places and things.“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” 1 John 4:16

Words or phrases that are not acceptable:

I don’t want to be referred to as “she sold sex” rather “ she was sold/bought for sex” is what happened to me.

Rescued- it implies that the survivor is someone waiting to be rescued because the word simplifies thus incredibly complex crime promotes misconceptions about who traffickers are and his they control and manipulate their victims.

Instead of Save use Assist

Instead of Set Free = Help to recover

Instead of Voices for the voiceless = Rebuild and heal

What’s wrong with you? Has been used by people who wanted to help and it made me feel disgusting until I met a social worker who asked “what happened” I was able to share my experiences in a way that felt kinda safe.

An organization once referred to me as doing sex work. That is misleading because the activity involved is neither sex, nor work- it’s rape/ assault. Instead use being prostituted or women in prostitution which is the legal term- SK

Donors’ money gives us hope and are praised for it. That diminishes our humanity. We have hope, a will to live and thrive and faith during the trafficking situation and after. I’d like to see organization’s respect our ability to survive and recognize their donors as people who are kind enough to give money for us to have the resources to heal

What words do I want to hear as a survivor/thriver?

Your shame has now been turned into your superpower

That I can live Happy, Joyous, and Free.

That using my past pain for someone else’s healing is giving God glory. We have overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our TESTIMONY! Jasmine Marino

Look how far you’ve come!

Life is hard, but you made just fine

I like it when people say kind words and compliments. For example, you are a very kind person, very caring about your children and others, a loving mother. You are strong and energetic, you do everything in time.

In Her Own Words:

Finally a poem written by a survivor/thriver:

“I’m not what I have done, I am what I’ve overcome”
I wave a crown of loneliness out of feeling overrun
Without Dawn’s Place I’d have no hope
Before I came here I was broken
I couldn’t handle life, let alone cope
& now that I am here this program has my full devotion
I never imagined someone would ever think I mattered
They pick me up when I am feeling down,
Because before Dawn’s place my life was shattered
If you ask me this is the best program around.
I don’t even think you could begin to comprehend
Dawn’s Place saved me from myself
Here I can be myself I don’t even want to pretend
I never thought I’d have a chance at life again
But dawn’s place continues to show me what I can be,
So today I am a survivor & getting stronger each day,
Today, nothing can stop me & I strive to be the best version of me
& I could not imagine my life in any other way
My Soul had been stomped upon.
I was lost, broken, helpless and hopeless.
Then the angels from Dawns Place swooped down and rescued me.
Little did I know, Dawns Place was the perfect place
For a woman to start a new life.
They placed my feet on a strong foundation.
They nurtured and helped to heal my broken heart.
They taught me honesty and integrity.
Dawns Place taught me how to rightfully love myself and others.
My healthy self-esteem soars with determination
My life has a new direction!
Thanks to Dawns Place I am a survivor, I am an overcomer

For more from thrivers about their resilience: