One of our participants decided that she was ready to move into her own apartment for the first time. The other staff and I expressed support and concerns because we didn’t think she was ready quite yet to take on independent living, especially since she would now be spending the hardest part of her day – nighttime – by herself.
She took our comments into consideration, but continued forward with her plans and found an apartment. The night before moving day, she and I packed boxes and hauled them into the living room, all while she made me laugh with her random comments and silly banter. We stopped to take a break and admire how well we had stacked boxes, which made the living room look like a warehouse.
We talked about what excited her most about being in her own place and what led to her decision to leave the Wings’ house. For the first time in the six months that I had known her, she asserted her needs: her own space, her own kitchen to clean, and her own schedule to choose. And looked me in the eyes while doing so. This may not sound like a big deal, but this brave girl avoided eye contact at all costs because she had learned in her exploitation that eye contact led to punishment. She had learned that telling anyone if she needed something – be it food, medical care, or toilet paper – led to punishment.
This simple action indicated to me that she had overcome an element of fear that had lurked beside her for years. This action indicated to me that she was ready to prove to herself that she didn’t have to depend on anyone else to live, which was a lie she heard constantly from her trafficker. If she could disprove that lie, how many more lies about her worth and purpose could she contradict?
This woman dared to look at everything working against her and instead believe that she was capable.