Sex trafficking victims create beauty out of their pain

| March 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

This drawing, created by a family member of a human trafficking victim, will appear in an exhibit with other works of art March 26 to April 3 at the Capitol. “What I was trying to illustrate was a person that was wavering on the edge of possibly committing suicide, complete despair,” the artist, who wished to remain anonymous, explained. Visitors to the exhibit will have opportunities to learn about the issue of human trafficking and how it is affecting the local community. Photo courtesy of Civil Society

It was a heartbreaking decision, but money was scarce. Guenevive and her husband felt they had no other choice but to leave their baby with Guenevive’s parents in Puebla, Mexico, while they journeyed north to Atlanta in search of jobs.

An acquaintance who knew about the couple’s desperate situation gave Guenevive a phone number to call about a job opening in Minneapolis. The woman who answered not only offered Guenevive a job, she agreed to pay for her flight.

When Guenevive arrived, the woman ordered that she hand over her identification for “safekeeping.” Then she told Guenevive she couldn’t leave until she repaid the debt she owed for the plane ticket.

Guenevive had fallen victim to a sex trafficker.

After two “terrifying” weeks, police rescued Guenevive and other young women being held prisoner at the house.

Real people, real needs

Three and a half years later, the emotional scars remain. But Guenevive, now 24, has found healing through psychological counseling and art therapy, she said.

Artwork made by Guenevive and other sex trafficking victims will be on display in the North Hall of the State Capitol
from Saturday, March 26, through Sunday, April 3.

The free exhibit, sponsored in part by the St. Paul organization Civil Society, will feature art pieces made by rescued women and children, victims’ family members, and people who work with traffic victims.

“As I go around and talk to [members of Congress], they are very concerned when they find out how real and how pervasive [human trafficking] is in Minnesota,” said Linda Miller, executive director of Civil Society. “They’re very eager to learn, so this is a way of conveying . . . that these are real people, they have real needs.”

Stories of traffic victims will accompany each art piece.

Because victims often suffer alone in silence and shame, Miller added, the art show also affirms to them that they matter.

A life-changing experience

Guenevive, who declined to give her real name, still can’t bring herself to tell her family what happened to her.

“At the house, they made me do things I didn’t want to do — things that were against my will, prostitution,” she told The Catholic Spirit last week at MORE School, a St. Paul organization run by the School Sisters of Notre Dame where Guenevive takes English classes and receives other assistance while she waits for her T visa request to be processed.

“[Sex trafficking] is an experience that changes your life completely,” she said in Spanish. “They say that with time you forget, but it’s not true.”

That’s where art therapy comes in. Shortly after being rescued, Guenevive found that the repetitive motions of latch hooking helped calm her mind.

Guenevive’s latch hook art will be on display at the Capitol along with 16 other pieces, including a 15-year-old victim’s drawing of a ballet dancer and a grandmother’s drawing of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

The U.S. bishops have said that churches, states and communities must work together to end human trafficking and help survivors.

For more information:

Modern-day slavery a reality in Minnesota, across globe

Escape from slavery

Category: Arts and Culture, Featured