On Sunday, January 6th, we went to a reception for an art show titled The Silent Witness Exhibit in the Fireside Room at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River that will run until the middle of February, 2019. It called attention to the seriousness of the human trafficking/domestic violence situation which is very much appropriate because January, 2019 has been designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
The exhibit consisted of about 16 models. A plaque was placed on each of them that told the story of a particular local victim. For example, one of them read, “Elaine was shot 10 times by her ex-boyfriend who then kept police at bay for over 5 hours. She had been physically and emotionally abused by her ex-boyfriend for years but never reported it.”
In this case, the models were created by people at the East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church and loaned out to West Shore. Artwork created by victims who have been assisted by the Renee Jones Empowerment Center was also included in the exhibit.
Ms. Joan Clark, who heads Westshore Allies Against Human Trafficking, spoke during the reception and told us that one thing that human trafficking and domestic violence victims share is vulnerability. In fact, many of them come from backgrounds of domestic violence that contributes to making them prey to mentally and/or physically oppressive partners and traffickers.
Indeed, we were given a handout titled The Intersections of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking, which read, in part, that “it is important to recognize that human trafficking and domestic violence don’t occur in silos. Rather, there is a marked overlap in the pattern of behaviors that both abusers and traffickers use to exert power and control over a victim. Intimate partner trafficking occurs when an abuser compels their partner to engage in commercial sex, forced labor or involuntary servitude…Physical abuse is a way of exerting power and control over another person but both domestic violence and and human traffickers use subtle tactics that make it possible for abusers and traffickers to exert control over a victim without raising a fist…Victims who lack legal documentation are often threatened with deportation if they refuse to comply with the abuser’s or trafficker’s demands…by acknowledging the intersection of domestic violence and human trafficking, we can begin to recognize how complex patterns of abusive behavior create environments that enable and perpetuate violence…”
We talked to Ms. Clark about special assistance to undocumented human trafficking/domestic violence victims and she said that this matter along with the “T Visa” had been discussed in other forums at the Westshore Church over the years. Ms. Clark, herself, does a lot to assist the Renee Jones Empowerment Center and asked us to thank Ms. Margaret W. Wong for her consistent support over the years.
Even though we still have a long way to go in terms of raising awareness about these issues, Ms. Clark acknowledged that concern is on the rise; people now see that these issues are very much a local problem…it is not something that only occurs in faraway countries.