Survivors are champions of social justice, and united can be invincible.
Our stories are powerful, our skills are formidable, and we fight for positive change and human rights. We’re valiant and relentless in our efforts to create a trauma informed culture. I’m deeply grateful to all my survivor brothers and sisters who have created non-profits, foundations, and educational programs. Your accomplishments are jaw-dropping, and I applaud you.
I’m not connected to a foundation, but I am an advocate and activist, and whenever possible, I use my talent and skill as a professional speaker (and veteran standup comic) to carry the message. I’m a survivor of adolescent sexual abuse/exploitation, and global sex trafficking.
On January 25th, I told my story at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, my third time as a guest speaker there. The MOT is a holocaust museum, founded by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, and human trafficking is one of the social justice issues they educate the public about. And I am grateful to my colleague, Ima Matul, of National Survivor Network, who attended my talk, and connected with me afterward. Ima is an inspiration, and I salute her.
The MOT focuses on stories of survival and overcoming, and the forgiveness you feel when you walk in the place is palpable, very inspiring. Holocaust survivors speak there on a regular basis.
In my presentation, I only touched upon my personal experience of being trafficked to Tokyo and held prisoner by Japanese organized crime figures, who isolated me in a room, threatened me with death, and abused and exploited me continuously. I was an adult, not a child, and my period of captivity was mercifully brief, a little less than two months. But the trauma I experienced nearly killed me, and cost me nearly a decade of my life.
But I’m a resilience expert, and I like to take my audiences on a healing journey. I share what every survivor knows: how we find courage in the midst of adversity. I invite each of my listeners to look within themselves and find the safe place, the place where we discover the power that heals, instructs, encourages, and sustains our spirits. It is from that place of strength that we are victorious over every challenge, every setback.
Whenever I tell my story, I face the stigma. But like all of you, I am a warrior, I push on through. I talk to the audience about the vulnerabilities traffickers exploit, who they target, and how the crime of human trafficking strips victims of their basic human rights. I urge people to support social services in their communities, especially survivor created and survivor led non-profits. And I mention specific ones.
I’ve got a background in standup, so I throw in punch lines and get laughs. It gives me strength when I get to hear laughter. Without the laughs here and there, I wouldn’t be able to do it. The crowd at the MOT was very attentive, and I got a few applause breaks. The event planner thanked me over and over, saying, “Your personal testimony of Human Trafficking reveals the empowerment possible when someone courageously confronts evil.”
Her words made me think of you, of all of us. We are empowered survivors. We live, we fight, and we are stronger, better, smarter, happier today, not in spite of the things we have overcome, but because of them. We are victorious!