This blog post originally appeared on Timea's personal blog Timea's view, where she writes about human trafficking in Canada. Timea is a member of our Task Force on Human Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada.
As a “survivor” of Human Trafficking the request for being on Television, in the Newspapers and being part of a study group for research comes to my email box daily.
About 3 years ago I responded to all of them, I rushed off to every media request, every speaking request, every research study, because I thought that it is my duty to help to teach or spread the awareness. I still think it is my duty, however many things have changed. I slowly realized, that every time I was interviewed, the part of where I talk about what needs to change, what do we need to do as Society to prevent Human Trafficking somehow never made into the published version. Never mind my current life, the “Happy ending”. Slowly I started to feel like a lab rat so do speak. I started to feel like an experiment project. I also realized that no one was really interested in anything else but how I felt when I was trafficked, and all the bad things that have happened while I was trafficked.
Sometimes I was even asked to look or sound a little more emotional if possible.At the beginning when the article was published I made the mistake of googling them and reading the feedbacks. One time my story was published on a Hungarian site, in Hungarian, head line reads: Ex hooker speaks in Kansas… Never mind the headline, but when I saw the Hungarian readers reaction, I just wanted to hide for ever and ever and never come out again. One of the feedback was, (hard to forget) “What a liar, she is a liar, came up with this story to become a Canadian, look at her ugly face I wouldn’t even pay $5 to ***** her”, or my other favorite was: “She just wants to be famous, what an idiot… and if the story is true its all her fault..“
Some Canadian readers suggested to deport me, others suggested that I should learn to speak english first before I decide to go on Television. Then other Survivors suggested that I have no right to write a book because I was only trafficked for 3 months, and that I have no idea what it is really like to be trafficked.
As painful as it was to see and hear all this, as well as not being able to “defend” myself, I learned a great deal of things in the first couple of years about my new self, and my new strength. But I am taking this opportunity to set the record straight for my own peace of mind. : Being “famous”, and giving autographs on red carpet for the latest performance you give in a new Hollywood movie, or being “famous for “surviving Human Trafficking”, is a two entirely different thing. Imagine, everywhere you go, all you talk about how you were being raped…or threatened, brainwashed, how you lost your family, friends back home, how you left your own life behind…Yeah, not exactly an A list feeling believe me.
With regards to I have no rights to write a book, because I was only trafficked for 3 months, well, the truth is, that even if you were only trafficked for a day, the impact will last a life time, so I think I did have the “right”. However it was a healing process for me, and regardless of anything, I am extremely happy that I did that, and I am sorry if I wasn’t trafficked “long enough”, so that the book couldn’t be long enough for publishing standards.
Despite the rough beginning I kept up with the media requests as much as I could. One time I was “directed” to look or sound like a victim. I remember doing a filming for a large Canadian Charity. They filmed my story. They flew me to their city, they paid for my hotel, my food, and they filmed a documentary of me with the intention of showing that film at their fundraiser. I remember that I was already helping victims from my on pocket, had a really hard time to pay my rent, and even harder time to find donations for the victim costs, when I got a letter from this agency thanking me so much for the film, and telling me that they have raised over a million dollars for their Human Trafficking related project. I was really proud and happy that I was a small part of that. And I was patiently waiting for my $200.00 that I asked as an honorarium for my time as I missed 2 days of work and every dollar counted.
The check never came. It took me weeks if not months. After many emails back and forth, finally I got paid.
Once I was asked to fly to the other side of the country to speak at a fundraiser for no compensation, where they would like to raise money for a long term safe house. By then I was already working on my own agency, on Front lines, (24/7) training Police officers, and on Sundays hassling for donations in churches. So I kindly declined the request. When I was told in the email that it is my duty and responsibility to show up because I am doing this for other victims, and that how would I feel as a victim if I find out that there are survivors out there who could help but won’t…
I was extremely confused to say the least. I didn’t end up going. I receive emails from students on a daily basis that they are working on their research paper, and they have choose Human Trafficking which is absolutely amazing, because that means that the awareness is clearly out there and it is getting bigger and bigger. But the requests often come as, “please answer my 20 questions”, and some of those answers can be easily googled, or find in books, online resources and such. Or I would like to meet you for a coffee and I would like to take only 2 hours of your time and get a better understanding on what its like to be a trafficked victim, and if you are not available can you please send me an other victim…
For the last year I am trying to figure it out how to answer those emails because I am extremely beyond honored to be asked, I am honored to provide any inside and any extra information that can help to shed light to this issue as many ways possible. But the truth is that none of these requests can be fulfilled without re victimizing me on a daily basis (NOT INTENTIONALLY). I realized that while I am extremely happy to share my experience as a victim and now my experience as a Front Line Victim Care worker, I think it has to happen on my terms, other wise I will burn out emotionally and I don’t want that because I would like to be around for a long time and I would like to be the Voice as long as I can or as long as people want to hear what I have to say.
However, as disappointing as it may sound, I am no longer a victim. Not even a survivor. I am just a person who had a rough going, learned from it, bounced back, and doing the best I can with it. My lived experience helps me to do my job on a daily basis as a Front Line worker, and I love what I do. I’m not good at anything else. I tried, believe me. I didn’t go to school here (for obvious reasons) I didn’t fit in anywhere I worked. (Except Medieval Times). I never had the proper resume, my English was never good enough, I never had enough experience for any position I applied for, so I had no bright future ahead of me. But I tried.
Then I started to Volunteer for Distress Center, and a Suicide Survivor Support Network, and Future Aces Foundation, and Toronto Police Victim Services, and St. Michaels Hospital, and I realized that I was “attracted to crisis” and people in crisis, and slowly I surrounded myself where people were benefiting from my lived experience…
It is been 16 years that I was trafficked. That’s a life time. That’s like your teenage daughters life time. Will I ever forget what happened? How could I? Do I still have wounds that didn’t heal? Absolutely. (Who doesn’t have them?) Do I want to help as much as I can by sharing? Absolutely.
But I realized that I just can’t meet everyone and answer every request anymore, so I decided to write two manuals and my personal story in a book format, so that people can read it and still have as much insight as possible.
Then when I started advertising that, I was accused of “banking” on my past….But by then I felt like that I got a “though skin” and these comments or emails or feedback’s stopped bothering me. I realized that obviously I can’t make everyone happy, people will form their opinion of you and your actions without even knowing you regardless if you are in a public eye or not. If you are in a public eye, the chances that someone have something negative to say about you or your work, or your comments are pretty high so I got used to that, and all I can do is honor the fact that they at least took interest, and took the time to read what I had to say, and took the time to form their opinion, which is awesome.
The greatest gift from this specific part of my journey is not to take anything personal, respect everyone’s opinion and honor them for being brave enough to say what they have to say, and honor the ones who are trying to raise the awareness even if they don’t say the right things sometimes, or re-victimizing us in the process not intentionally.
I appreciate the society and members of all sectors and I appreciate all the requests to this day, because 16 years ago no one even knew this existed. 16 years ago (and for many years after) the “system” have let me down many many many times, but the Canadian People never did! They have got me back up on my feet many many many times. Canadian people with the golden heart “raised me”, took care of me, and helped me to become who I am today, and I will always be grateful for that. So I will continue my very best to provide as much information and in as many format as I possibly can to help everyone who needs it. I just ask for a little patience, and ask if you receive an email with links to resources instead of an interview time, please trust, that the reading material I am directing you to is extremely helpful and valuable.
As for the Media, I will write an entire different blog on that. I think that deserves an entire blog on its own.
I hope this was helpful?
Thank you for reading it.
PS: As usual, forgive me for all grammar mistakes. This is the best I can do. Maybe when I retire, I will take some English lessons:-)