I have been a slave. As a survivor of human trafficking, that doesn’t come as a surprise. Human trafficking has been dubbed “modern-day slavery” by the media, governmental agencies and non-profit organizations. Many organizations use symbols like chains and ropes to depict human trafficking. These symbols can also be dangerous when educating the public about human trafficking. It leads people to believe that slavery can only be defined by physical restraint. This perception has caused people to ask why trafficking victims don’t run away when they are not restrained.
Survivors know the truth. Slavery can be even more powerful when it is of the mind. Threats of physical harm can be even more powerful than physical harm itself. Physical wounds heal. Brainwashing of trafficking victims is extremely powerful. If a victim believes they will die if they go to the police, they won’t go. If a victim believes they are worthless, and the only person who will take care of them is their pimp, they will stay. It can be even more powerful when the victim is a child.
The idea that slavery is mostly of the mind has led me to examine some of the societal norms that seem to be running our culture. I have been wondering what happens when we don’t question the norms that we have been taught. I have been wondering who created those norms. I have been wondering why we seem so intent on believing them.
Recently, The Double Parent wrote a great piece about society’s view that a single-parent household is “broken”. This struck me. As a single mother, I obviously do not believe that my family is broken. I will continue to work with other single mothers to change the societal norm that a family needs two parents to function well. My family provides a safe, loving and financially-secure environment for my children to thrive. However, there is a twist when I consider this issue. I grew up in a two-parent household. From the outside, we met all the societal standards for the perfect American family. However, that family promoted a sexually, emotionally and physically abusive environment. I prayed every day that my father would leave. My mother was only marginally better.
There is another type of family that is being shunned by societal norms today. Although there has been some progress regarding the legal rights of the LGBTQ community, some religious institutions are struggling with the acceptance of gay marriage, or even gay people. There are some that even believe the LGBTQ community is more likely to sexually victimize others. These societal norms are largely fueled by religious texts, which were in fact, written by people thousands of years ago. One brave pastor is daring to ask the question on Jim’s Blog. His facilitation of this topic has me wondering if it is our job as humans to question what we are told.
I have to question it. I have chosen to base my beliefs on my personal experiences – my own study of the human race. In my childhood, the only adult who I could trust was gay. I was constantly raped, but I was never raped by a gay person. I grew up in a household with two heterosexual parents who were terribly abusive. There is no abuse in my single-parent family. Did society create norms because they were better or because their understanding was limited? If we refuse to question norms, are we just slaves to whoever created them? I was a slave. I don’t want to be a slave any longer.