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Understanding Child Sex Trafficking and Abuse Through Literature and Memoirs

When approaching the issues of child sex trafficking, exploitation, and abuse, we must tread lightly. In ‘4 Tips to Start the Discussion’, we said that books are a great medium to start with. These issues are extremely layered and are tethered to an understanding of other factors – the social phenomena of these crimes, the difficulty of seeking help, the physical and emotional scars, and the impact of trauma. Understanding all of the above relies on critical thinking, an understanding of human behavior and psychology, and the complexity of legal procedures. In their description of the roles of today’s criminal justice professionals, Maryville University stresses how they need to understand interdisciplinary approaches as well as complex theories, which can then be applied to real-world scenarios. Literature is an avenue of achieving this for the wider public, as more people may be able to grasp such sensitive issues. It gives a voice to those who have been silenced, allowing them to connect with others who have gone through the same ordeals. Concurrent to this, readers who are hoping to open the discourse with people they know who have experienced these crimes will have a better picture of what they may have gone through, and approach it with more empathy and care. Here are some works of literature, both fiction and nonfiction that manage to turn pain into power:

‘Harvesting’ by Lisa Hardy

For her debut novel ‘Harvesting’, Lisa Hardy worked with NGOs to gather testimonials on children who were trafficked as the basis for her book. It is centered on an Irish teenager named Sammy who was sold as a bride at 12 years old and trafficked afterward. Hardy decided to write the book to bring to light the fact that child trafficking still exists. Many remain unaware or aloof to the idea that this cruelty happens on a global and industrial scale. It also serves as a form of social commentary that more work needs to be done in ensuring that the sex trafficking market does not continue to grow at the expense of its victims.

‘Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs’ by Elissa Wall and Lisa Pulitzer

The infamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) was an offshoot of the Mormon Church. Former member Elissa Wall wrote ‘Stolen Innocence’ about the abuse, brainwashing, and forced incestuous and underage marriage she had to endure in the FLDS and how she decided to flee. The memoir also covers Wall’s life after her escape and articulates how her courtroom testimony helped convict leader Warren Jeffs for his crimes.

‘An Untamed State’ by Roxane Gay

Acclaimed author Roxane Gay, a victim of rape herself, began her literary career with a novel called ‘An Untamed State.’ It follows the daughter of a wealthy Haitian construction magnate, Mireille Duval Jameson, as she is kidnapped in broad daylight. Despite this brazen crime being witnessed by her husband and a number of people, Mireille is held for thirteen days and endures brutal gang sexual violence. Upon her release, she tries to cope with the traumatic aftermath while piecing herself back together after feeling like she had died.

‘Out of the Shadows’ by Timea Nagy

The Spec call Timea Nagy one of Canada’s most outspoken advocates on human trafficking. She has worked for many years running Walk With Me, a charity that investigates human trafficking and has successfully rescued a number of men and women. In her new autobiography, Nagy tells her own story of being sold into the sex trade as she was starved, isolated, and abused. The novel is an act of catharsis and healing for Nagy who did not realize she was a victim of human trafficking until much later on in her life. She continues to share her story, has spoken to the UN, works with the police, and responds to calls from other victims. Literature mirrors life and gives us a humanistic lens in dealing with issues as fragile as sex trafficking and abuse. While we often cannot determine the full extent that victims have gone through, these books offer earnest insight into the life of a victim of sex trafficking. Hopefully, in return, we are able to continue the discourse and are ultimately motivated to collaboratively eradicate these crimes altogether.

Written by: Amanda Green

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