Dear Movement Allies,
Please don’t use the words “rescue” or “save” anymore. This story is not about you. It’s about me finding freedom from violent oppression.
Rescue negates my resilience to survive while pursuing my freedom. Pursue freedom. Yes, I did that all the while I was not free.
Save limits my ability to participate in my freedom. Rescue says I’m not capable of taking a step toward you. I did run to you a million times in my mind before taking that literal first step.
Save removes my choice to respond to your outreach. Rescue says I did not ask for help. I silently screamed for help at the top of my lungs until the day I found my voice and you were ready to hear me.
Save says I’m helpless. Rescue says I’m a charity. I say I’m resourceful, feisty, strong.
Save implies a happily-ever-after magical ending. Rescue says you are the hero. I’m the hero of my life—I need to be my own hero, to be empowered to persist in the years of recovery ahead.
Rescue says my hands and feet were bound, your eyes cannot not see the bondage that held me.
Less than five percent of the time have I been literally bound. Reflect the greater percent of my lived experience, the truth.
Those images of me bruised and beaten may have been true before I was free. The truth many don’t want to see is that during most of my captivity, I looked just like you.
That likeness of me bound with chains? Please don’t use it. Sensationalized large metal chains have never been wrapped around me.
The photos of me behind bars or with ropes around my wrists are metaphors we don’t use anymore. I’ve not been locked in a cage with a key you could hold.
Please don’t show me naked or in the shadows. If we mislead with images and words, my community will never see me living in their midst. Liberate me by showing the world that I look like you.
I need words and images that provoke respect, not pity or sympathy.
Show me how dignity looks on me.
As I re-build my life, celebrate each step of that, please. Show the world my smile. And when my story can help prevent, educate, or inform, please share my story.
Not the sordid, degrading details of my horror. This harms everyone.
Give the hero’s journey to me—no matter my age. The triumphant survivor learning to live and love.
The courageous actions that continue to lead to me to new levels of freedom. The flame of hope that I keep feeding. The resilience I exercise to undo the influence of force, fraud, coercion.
Words I agree with: identified, recovered, exit, escape, self-rescue. Images I agree with will reflect human strength, resiliency, triumph.
As a child, I need help to exit, just like I need someone to teach me how to ride my bike. Empower me to be my own hero by walking beside me. Teach me to make choices of my own. Show me how to develop my sense of self. Please don’t say that you rescued or saved me; then I owe you, and I’ve paid enough already. Please don’t use my story and my photo to raise money, I don’t owe you. Especially if I am a minor, can you see how re-exploitive this is for me?
Ask me about my current life, which reflects post-traumatic growth, love, security. Ask not if I’m happy, but what brings me happiness.
Ask me about my first snorkeling adventure—because I survived so I could experience that innocent child-like joy that induced giggles and tears.
Ask me about my river trips in stunning desert canyons—because I’m worthy of whitewater adventure.
In these questions, you’ll discover I’m much more like you than you’ve imagined.
This movement needs you, and me. Let’s remind everyone of my ability to rise beyond freedom.
Angela, a thriving survivor
www.angelaraeclark.com / Feel free to share electronically with your group or organization. I believe this piece applicable for all survivors of violence and oppression. Survivors, feel free to share and add in the points that are important to you that I’ve failed to include. Kindly give credit to me for this piece. Thank you, Angela
For additional articles on how to address trafficking in the media, please visit: http://www.theirinaproject.org/resources.html