What does it mean to be a survivor leader?

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Originally published on June 9, 2016.

What does it mean to be a Survivor Leader?  That was the question posed to me.  A survivor leader....hmmmm.  For me, it means nothing, and yet everything.  Nothing, because I tend to be a person who puts little importance or value on titles and positions.  And everything, because how we treat our fellow people is paramount; it is everything.  

Here's the thing:  I am tremendously grateful to have survived being trafficked, so much so, that there are truly not words created in the English language to fully express it.  It is an honor to have the life I have.  I fully realize this, and I try with all I have not to take it for granted.  I know what it is to not have freedom, to feel my life is truly not my own.  I do not think that one incredibly, significant caveat means I deserve more honor than someone who didn't survive or vice versa.  I believe we are each worthy of honor, love, and respect because of who we are and were created to be.  

Surviving, in and of itself, is not worthy of note.  In fact, I am incredibly humbled and brought to tears every single time I consider the fact that I did survive.  And that leads me to my personal truth.  Surviving this life, having done all one can do to live it to the full, and in accordance with their Maker's plan, now that is worthy of note.  I pray by my life's end I will be worthy of note, based on this definition.

Leader.  Survivor Leader.  To me, it means utilizing my experience in such a way as to positively influence my fellow man.  Whether that is in actually leading and assisting others through their trafficking experience, walking with them along the journey to heal, educating on the truths of trafficking here in America, or simply being the best version of me I can possibly be.  To me, leadership is living in such a way as to encourage, edify, influence, and raise up those around me.  You do not have to be a survivor to do that, you just need to be willing to share yourself.

So, am I a Survivor Leader?  Perhaps.  I just think I'm simply Kathy.

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Kathy Bryan was once a victim of child sex trafficking. Today, thanks to God’s amazing mercy and grace, she has overcome that evil.  A successful speaker, consultant and mentor, Kathy has a unique way of conveying the horrific truths of Human Trafficking in a relatable way, weaving her own experience into her presentation leaving listeners enlightened, engaged and inspired to action. Whether you speak with her one on one, or hear her present to a room of 800, you will feel she is speaking directly to you.

Kathy testified before the Arkansas House and Senate in support of Human Trafficking Legislation, which was subsequently passed and became law.  She has guest lectured at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, and Arkansas State University.  Currently, she holds the position of Program Director and Lead Mentor for Rebecca Bender Initiative. Kathy is a member of both the National Survivor Network and the Survivor Leader Institute.

Over the course of her life she has succeeded in many business endeavors, from restaurant management, to owning her own retail store, to becoming a licensed Realtor. Kathy is that person we all know. You know, the one everyone calls for advice, information, and assistance.  She has been an active leader in her local church providing supportive listening, lay counseling, and small group leadership for over 20 years. There is much to be found in her wheelhouse, ultimately though, her heart beats for helping people understand each other, which fosters empathy and a foundation for unity.

Kathy and Keith, her husband of thirty years, have three children who married three wonderful spouses giving them six kids and now eight grands, whom they adore!  Any free time they carve out is spent traveling through their beautiful Arkansas and the world beyond.

Rebecca Bender