SURVIVOR: A21 WALK FOR FREEDOM / by Daniel Walker

By Daniel V / Founder of The Priceless MVMT

“I’m a survivor, I’m not gon’ give up.”

For many of us, especially millennials, we recall this bold and popular pop-anthem by Destiny’s Child, in 2001. For some, it was simply another overplayed pop sensation hit. Yet for many, and notably young women, this was a statement; a challenging ideology that it was permissible, even celebrated, to have scars; to have faced Hell; that perhaps it didn’t need to be a dark place of despair, but a pivot point of redemption.

I am often asked the question, “How did you end up working in anti-human trafficking?”. I have often answered this question with great delicacy, as to not to offend those who expect me to say “I was trafficked.” As this is a common history of many who now work in advocacy, I priorly felt obligated, as though I should have faced this unspeakable hell, as to be fit or applicable to this fight.

It was an idea that formerly daunted me, and in even in my initial leading to this work, complicated and nearly halted me from moving forward. Men have no place in anti-trafficking work, I thought. Men are the problem.

It is a painful half truth. Men have been a problem; and while not the only factor, it is inarguable that a powerful driver in the exploitation industry are the men, both purchasing, as well as selling victims for sex. It can be an often overlooked factor, living deep in the shadows of hard truths and even harder steps to reform and healing; but here it is. Men are victims as well; also survivors; and regardless of how we define, characterize, judge, or condemn the actions of men in relation to the world of exploitation, it cannot be denied that men, as much any issue of poverty, social climate, gender discrimination, etc., must be a focus point of healing and redemption as well.

Thus, here we have the inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even overtly offensive truth; that exploitation, not only in industry, but in human regard, does not end until we address and offer healing to both the women being victimized, as well as the men responsible for victimization. Until we recognize and respond to both as captives, none can truly be free.

My appeal is this. Men, register and walk. We need your presence; we need your voices. We need your compassion. Our women need to see you there; to have your support; to play a role in standing for a different kind of man and male mentality in our world and culture. In the US, where trafficking is built on the very foundations of toxic masculinity, silence, lack of awareness and patriarchal structures, we need you more than ever.

We are all survivors; and trafficking and exploitation will not end with clenched fists and pointed fingers; it will end with hands joined and banners raised. To any man reading this who may be struggling with the same thoughts that once plagued; that feel you’re “part of the problem” or “too far gone to help.” That “you have no place”; let me leave you with this.

You know what it’s like to be trapped; buried in your shame, locked in your mind, prisoner to the system of destructive male identity. Yet and still, those most able to reach others still trapped are those who have survived those hells themselves. Someone out there needs your story; and the triumph from it. Whoever you might be, I invite you to take the first step.

- Daniel V

Register: a21.org