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Cameron Conaway – WNN Justice
(WNN) Washington D.C., UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: With her guide dog by her side, child sex trafficking survivor Margeaux Gray presented perhaps the most powerful testimonial at the January U.S. Congressional Briefing: Combating Modern Slavery. “This is my first time speaking in front of an audience like this,” she began. “Even after I escaped I was forced to live in the slavery of my own isolated horror. PTSD, eating disorders, adrenal insufficiency, blindness—all related to the traumas of physical and sexual abuse that I endured as a result of being trafficked.”
Scrolling her fingers along what looked to be an iPhone, Margeaux spoke only after the recorded audio came through her headphones. The brief pauses in between her sentences allowed all in attendance to reflect on the unbelievable devastation of these crimes and on the strength of the human spirit.
“Speaking today marks an important part of my survival; it’s a true milestone in my recovery,” she continued. “I was trafficked at a young age, auctioned off to anyone willing to pay. No physician ever asked if I was abused and I saw many of them before I escaped at 18.”
Margeaux spoke about the important need to educate all sectors of society about modern slavery and human trafficking—from social workers and physicians to teachers and businessmen.
“We need an age-appropriate curriculum to teach our children what abuse is, what trafficking is. And we need to incorporate self-esteem builders for our kids so that they have confidence.”
She said that our need to protect vulnerable children should trump our fears that this is a “touchy subject” or that “we just won’t go there.” If we can “think from a child’s perspective and from a young adult’s perspective,” she said, then we should be able to create educational methodologies that work best for each particular stage of a child’s development.
While Margeaux didn’t go in-depth about the details of her own trafficking situation, her profound insights into what helped her recover were true takeaway points of the briefing:
“Please stop the life sentences for trafficking survivors,” she said. “A trafficking survivor is never completely free until they are rid of the aftereffects. They need to be personally committed to helping themselves, but we also need help. I personally would not have been able to heal without art therapy and other psychological services.”
Those “many effects” weren’t some abstract idea. The audience could literally see the way they impacted her life.
As she spoke, a projection behind her showed a piece of her artwork; proof that she’s a living artist but also that she may very well be alive because of her art.
Margeaux spoke of the need to address each survivor depending on the kind of trauma they experienced, “This is not a cookie cutter crime.”
The insights she provided into our educational system were made all the more important when paired with what host Melysa Sperber of The Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking said earlier in the briefing: “The Department of Education has zero resources to combat human trafficking.”
Margeaux closed with several lines that really resonated with everybody in attendance:
“If it were not for the services I had access to, I would not have survived, even after I had escaped. Empower yourself by empowering others. This is a human issue. We can do this.”
In recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Month ATEST – Alliance To End Slavery and Trafficking convened five trafficking survivor advocates to speak to lawmakers and staff on Capitol Hill. They brought messages on behalf of survivors of sex and labor trafficking throughout the US and beyond. Requests were made for U.S. government agencies to commit to legislation that must either be enacted or enforced. This February 3, 2014 video is a production of ATEST.
You can support Margeaux by following her on Twitter @GeauxFreedom.
For more information on this topic read two other stories that are part of a comprehensive series on human trafficking and sexual exploitation as modern slavery by Cameron Conaway:
Modern slavery influences your life no matter who you are
In addition to writing for WNN, Cameron Conaway is the Social Justice Editor of The Good Men Project. An award-winning author, he was the 2007-2009 Poet-in-Residence at the University of Arizona’s MFA Creative Writing Program. In 2007 he graduated from Penn State with a dual Criminal Justice/English major. His work has appeared or been reviewed in ESPN, The Huffington Post, Rattle, Sherdog, Cosmo, Teach Magazine, The Australian, Ottawa Arts Review and elsewhere. Follow him on Google and on Twitter: @CameronConaway
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