There was a red-whiskered bulbul outside my window being cacophonous and demanding attention. When I saw the bird, I noticed a red and white design by his eyes that was like a heart. Looking at the bird, I began to think of love. What is it that triggers the feeling of love in each of us? How do we respond when the feeling is triggered? I thought of the five love languages that Gary Chapman made famous. My thoughts stopped when I thought of how survivors (of a trauma unimaginable) whether sold by parents or boyfriends, understood and responded to love. Gary Chapman of course was speaking of emotionally healthy people. Why do survivors of trafficking as brave as they are, struggle so much with something that comes so easily and naturally to the vast majority?

The trauma they have endured has not made love hard but the belief in safety harder. All expressions of love are possible only when the individual feels safe. Safety is what she lost and safety is what she seeks. Only when she feels you will keep her safe; not look at her with judgement, condemnation and pity, will she use you as a venting board and tell you every nook and cranny of her story; the betrayal, the hurt, and her fear of the future.

Love comes only after safety. When she does not feel safe, you will see signs of depression, the beginnings of compulsive behavior, an eating disorder, or substance dependence to try and regulate her emotions, flashbacks, panic attacks, persistent self-doubt, suicidal thoughts and last but not least, continuing adverse behavior she experienced as a child.

When I think of this month when the world celebrates love, commercially or otherwise, I hope we at Freedom Firm are able to reach out to all these brave women and girls with love. Not as the 5 love languages we apply commonly but by reminding her that she is safe with us. Calling her attention to the here and now – the situation, the changes in her and her surroundings, her blessings and challenges of today. Offering her a glass of water, our hand and assurance of support whether it is as a sounding board or as a parent or most often as a brother, sister and friend.

May I request each of you, as you celebrate love in your life, to spend a moment thinking of these brave women and girls and think of how you can express love to them. The ones you know and those you don’t. Allow them their chance to experience some healthy and wholesome love. “All expressions of love are possible only when the individual feels safe. Safety is what she lost and safety is what she seeks.” Love comes only after safety. When she does not feel safe, you will see signs of depression, the beginnings of compulsive behavior, an eating disorder, or substance dependence to try and regulate her emotions, flashbacks, panic attacks, persistent self-doubt, suicidal thoughts and last but not least, continuing adverse behavior she experienced as a child.

Catherine Raja,
National Director, Freedom Firm