NC Women United Statement on Playing Politics with the Lives of Human Trafficking Victims

We were proud to stand with members NARAL Pro-Choice NC and NC NOW yesterday to take a stand on what true support for victims of human trafficking looks like – an offering of non-judgmental programs and services based on the needs of the survivors, not the ideology of those providing the support.  While the faith and beliefs of many working on this epidemic can inform their motivation and desire to be a part of the solution, we must all remember that justice for human trafficking survivors must be survivor-centered. Those enslaved in human trafficking have often had all autonomy taken from them during the time of victimization, and while it can be a long road towards regaining that autonomy, that is what survivor services must be striving for as their end goal. Playing politics with the most vulnerable in our society has no place in this struggle.

For a background on what has led us to this point, read here. For NC NOW’s statement, read here. And considering women forced into sex trafficking on average “service” up to 13 men per day, unintended pregnancy is certainly a common occurrence among victims. Some of them may want to bring the pregnancy to term; others may not. But part of the healing from the trauma of sex  slavery means the decision needs to be their choice.

NCWU Statement, read by Emma Akpan, Director of Policy:

emma Trust women rally 4.8.2015 raleighI am Emma Akpan, and I serve as a policy director or NC Women United.

NCWU focuses on policies that have an impact on women’s lives.  We believe women should have access the full range of reproductive health services, including family planning, prenatal services, and abortion services. We believe women should have access to quality, affordable health care for both themselves and their families.  We believe women should have equal opportunities to support themselves and their families, and supports for work-life balance, such as affordable child care and access to paid sick leave, as they pursue these opportunities. We believe women and girls have the right to live their lives free from violence and coercion.

In human trafficking in North Carolina, all of these issues all come into play.  Women with little economic opportunities, who are struggling to provide shelter, food and access to needed health care for themselves and their families, are the most vulnerable to human traffickers because they promise to take care of them and suggest there are “easy” ways to make the money they need.  Girls who are living in abusive homes and believe no one will ever love them are vulnerable to traffickers who say they will love them and care for them.  Holding up the federal Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act in an effort to expand an ideological tool – the Hyde Amendment – is nothing more than the playing of politics by those who are not directly impacted by the horrors of sex slavery.

The Hyde Amendment – already an injustice for poor women in this country, has no place in this legislation.  It will do nothing to help the victims of sex slavery, many of whom are girls and young women, and has the potential to further harm and traumatize these victims.  Sex slavery is exactly what it sounds like, in which the victims have little to no say over their bodies and their lives, and are assaulted and raped on a regular basis in the service of their traffickers’ “clients”. Suggesting that victims who become pregnant from one of these rapes should have to carry the pregnancy to term because they cannot afford an abortion if they choose that option is not providing the victims the full support they need to take back the control in their lives they had lost during their enslavement.

We ask our North Carolina lawmakers to stop playing politics on the bodies of the most vulnerable in our society, and come together to address the core issues – economic insecurity, the epidemic of violence against women, the sexualization of young girls, the sexist attitudes that place women and girls in a second class status – that are at the root of human trafficking. It will take all of us to put a stop to this epidemic. Lawmakers should put aside ideological differences and write  policies that are in the best interests of the victims. Thank you.