With her guide dog by her side, child sex trafficking survivor Margeaux Gray presented perhaps the most powerful testimonial at the January U.S. Congressional Briefing: Combating Modern Slavery.
“This is my first time speaking in front of an audience like this,” she began. “Even after I escaped I was forced to live in the slavery of my own isolated horror. PTSD, eating disorders, adrenal insufficiency, blindness - all related to the traumas of physical and sexual abuse that I endured as a result of being trafficked.”
Scrolling her fingers along what looked to be an iPhone, Margeaux spoke only after the recorded audio came through her headphones. The brief pauses in between her sentences allowed all in attendance to reflect on the unbelievable devastation of these crimes and on the strength of the human spirit.
“Speaking today marks an important part of my survival; it’s a true milestone in my recovery,” she continued. “I was trafficked at a young age, auctioned off to anyone willing to pay. No physician ever asked if I was abused and I saw many of them before I escaped at 18.”
Margeaux spoke about the important need to educate all sectors of society about modern slavery and human trafficking - from social workers and physicians to teachers and businessmen.
“We need an age-appropriate curriculum to teach our children what abuse is, what trafficking is. And we need to incorporate self-esteem builders for our kids so that they have confidence.”
She said that our need to protect vulnerable children should trump our fears that this is a “touchy subject” or that “we just won’t go there.” If we can “think from a child’s perspective and from a young adult’s perspective,” she said, then we should be able to create educational methodologies that work best for each particular stage of a child’s development.
While Margeaux didn’t go in-depth about the details of her own trafficking situation, her profound insights into what helped her recover were true takeaway points of the briefing:
“Please stop the life sentences for trafficking survivors,” she said. “A trafficking survivor is never completely free until they are rid of the aftereffects. They need to be personally committed to helping themselves, but we also need help. I personally would not have been able to heal without art therapy and other psychological services.”
Those “many effects” weren’t some abstract idea. The audience could literally see the way they impacted her life.
As she spoke, a projection behind her showed a piece of her artwork; proof that she’s a living artist but also that she may very well be alive because of her art.
Margeaux spoke of the need to address each survivor depending on the kind of trauma they experienced, “This is not a cookie cutter crime.”
The insights she provided into our educational system were made all the more important when paired with what host Melysa Sperber of The Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking said earlier in the briefing: “The Department of Education has zero resources to combat human trafficking.”
Margeaux closed with several lines that really resonated with everybody in attendance:
“If it were not for the services I had access to, I would not have survived, even after I had escaped. Empower yourself by empowering others. This is a human issue. We can do this.”
This story first appeared on Women's News Network