Bystander to Advocate (Part 3): 3 Weapons for the Fight
I would love to let you in on some valuable information - let’s call them weapons that you can use in the fight. By fight, I don’t mean knock down, drag out. I mean this ongoing pursuit of justice. Action taken to defend victims, survivors or those at risk of abuse.
Direct Intervention is one way to take action, but it’s not the kind I’d recommend. In abuse cases specific to sex trafficking, there can often be a controlling, possibly violent pimp nearby. Just know you can be safe and helpful at the same time, using Detour Intervention. In other words, you can simply call for help. If you call a professional, there is at least a chance for the victim to find safety.
To even know there’s a need for intervention, there are three things you’ll need in your justice-holster:
1. The Polaris Project line. Add 1-888-3737-888, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (or Polaris), to your contacts. Calling quickly with details or questions is usually your best course of action. Highly trained advocates will coach you as needed.
2. A Selfless Disposition. Consciously caring about complete strangers - at times more than yourself - does not come naturally. You’ll need to practice more awareness of those around you while in public. It seems like with every year that passes we’re thinking more about ourselves - our agenda for the day - or what is on our smartphones, than about people close by who may need us. Heads are pointed down, minds in their own world.
Can I propose that we start swimming against that stream of consciousness? That we be a generation of people who care enough to look up. Notice the older man who pushes a boy into his car with a little too much force. Watch how a middle-aged adult interacts with small children nearby. Notice the 16 year old who seems to be dressed for July...in January. Notice a tear.
3. Red Flags. Along with heightened awareness of surroundings, you’ll also need the knowledge of some basic “red flags” to look for when you’re out. And I’ve got good news for you: Rebecca Bender created a brochure just for this purpose. She gives specific examples of how you can identify pimps and their victims.
Once you know, you feel not just responsible to act, but empowered to make a call that could dramatically change a victim’s outcome. Most outcomes you’ll never hear about. But if you step out to change enough single outcomes, suddenly you’ll find yourself changing entire communities. You’ll look in the mirror and see a faith-led, fiery-eyed leader.
Even in a high-ambiguity situation (when you’re just not sure how urgent the need for help really is), you can still call a non-emergency police line to see if they’ll conduct a welfare-check. It isn’t nosey; it’s kind. It’s merciful. Way too many out there lean toward a politically correct, mind-your-own-business mentality. Stand out. Lean toward the vulnerable.