Mariah was previously the Program Manager of End Slavery Now. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati's DAAP program with a degree in Digital Design.
A few weeks ago, End Slavery Now had the privilege of hosting the Freedom Summit. This summit facilitated a conversation about racial injustice and human trafficking and was meant to increase such discussions among American churches. The event was an incredible exchange of ideas, and we will share videos and images as they become available.
During the lunch session, Dr. Brook Bello gave a moving account of her experience as a trafficking victim, survivor and activist. Through her story, Bello highlighted the conditions and processes that perpetuate cycles of exploitation. Furthermore, as the founder More Too Life, she illustrated ways to combat trafficking through empowerment and demand prevention. The illustration above and the recap below detail some of the main takeaways from her talk.
Bello spoke of her transition out of victimhood and More Too Life's path to healing. Just like Bello, clients under More Too Life's guidance transform from victims to survivors, survivors to thrivers and, finally, thrivers to champions. The road to recovery is difficult and a constant battlefield. Perhaps the biggest challenge is answering the question "Who am I?" But little by little, Bello and other former victims are able to address the trauma they've experienced and begin to find or rebuild their identity. Having the ability to define oneself plays a huge role in the recovery process.
Being a spiritual woman, Bello described sex as a gift from God and a beautiful act between two people who love each other. Therefore, she challenged the term "sex trafficking" and instead insisted that it be referred to as "rape trafficking." Bello wants the word sex to be reserved for the loving act and wishes to distinguish it from the rape that happens in trafficking.
Bello mentioned three types of pimps: boyfriend, gorilla and gang. Each type has a different way of pimping a girl, but the end result is always exploitation for the profit of the pimp. A boyfriend pimp typically follows a grooming pattern where he romances the victim, gains her trust and slowly begins to pimp her out. The pimping generally first occurs with his friends under the context of "if you really love me you will do this for my friends." The abuse will then progress, involve strangers and eventually turn into forced prostitution. The gorilla pimp is one who controls victims through excessive force and violence. A gang pimp preys on victims initiated into gangs. Normally, these victims only join after being persuaded by a boyfriend, and afterwards, they are forced to perform sexual acts. They are completely controlled by the gang, are considered the gang's property and are pimped out to generate income for the group. All of these types of pimps traffick victims for their own profit. The only difference lies in their methods of control.
A mainstream argument is that without demand, there would be no supply. Bello concluded, "Men are the biggest problem and the biggest solution." Her plea was for men to change the legacy of fatherhood by raising sons who respect women and raising girls who feel loved. She also called for an end to demand by asking men to stop the purchase of sex from women and children.
Hearing Brook Bello speak was an enlightening experience, and she covered more topics in her speech.
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Learn about Òlòturé, a Nigerian film about human trafficking in Nigeria. It is available on Netflix.