by Annabelle Nakabiri Ssebakijje
Annabelle Ssebakijje will be presenting a workshop titled Saving Two Lives at a Time at the 2021 Heartbeat International Virtual Conference.
It is not very common for me to be silent for 3 hours while having a conversation with another person. The staff I serve with always have to remind me of time when we have a meeting. It even gets more challenging when I am talking with girls – I think it comes from a place of wanting to pour my heart out into every conversation.
As I continue to interact and serve survivors of sexual abuse and young women that come through our doors; I have learnt to BE QUIET and LISTEN!
(Shared with permission)
A couple of days ago I met this young lady I will call Pat. She got my contact off Facebook and sent me a long message. She needed help. After a couple of chats I realized I needed to urgently meet with her in person. For the first time, she had found someone willing to listen. She had found a place she can let it all out. I am not sure I was prepared for the 3 hours of deep sighs and tears as I listened to a spirit of a beautiful girl – so crushed and feeling completely helpless.
This young lady comes from a polygamous family. She lost her father at age 13 and this meant she couldn’t continue with school. The step sisters quickly threw her and her mom out of the house. They had to struggle through life to find a place to stay and afford a meal. Left with “not so many options,” she found herself a young sweet love who promised her a life of big dreams. When she shared the news about their pregnancy, the young man offered her money to have an abortion. She took the money but decided to keep her child. The prince of her dreams was not ready to be responsible – so he left.
Now there was a child to care for. There was no family support. There was no baby-daddy and no love. She lost the right to be just a young girl. She had someone calling her “maama” (Luganda word meaning mom) and to society – she was the wasted teenager. This was not the future she had imagined. All her dreams were “crushed.”
One of the most common things that happens to people that have suffered abuse and painful losses is they learn to settle for anything – because they have to get by – they need to SURVIVE. I fail to count the number of times I have heard the statement “I had no other option” during counselling sessions. The pain we experience serval times makes us so vulnerable and desperate – and as a result, there is repeated abuse.
For Pat, she was forced to learn the art of sex trade early. Sleeping with at least 5 men a day. Some paid for her services. Some did not. Some required that they do not use protection. More than 3 times, she got pregnant and felt her only option was to abort. Each time she had to go through this cycle of pain alone. She would remind herself – “I have no option.”
A couple of years later – the “way of survival” was not bringing in as much as she needed to meet the needs of her growing child. Someone introduced her to what sounded like an exciting opportunity. She was to be an escort. Escort is a common term used in the sex trafficking industry. This meant she was expected to walk around with guests that came to Uganda through a tour company, and they needed girls for sexual pleasure. The offer was that for every girl who pleases the “white” clients, they get a pay close to 1m per month, a business set up for them and travel opportunities. Well, this sounded exciting – until she learnt that to qualify for the juicy slot – one needed to go through series of preparation and practice. Her and a group of other younger girls (16 – 25yrs) were always expected to have their nude pictures taken and recorded sex sessions with young men during “rehearsals.” The madam running the business called this – training. No one expected to be paid for the training sessions. There was no food benefit. No explanations why the sessions were recorded. The pictures were to be sent to potential company clients to choose which girl they want as an escort when they arrive in the country.
One day, as Pat walked out of the training session; she felt a rare deep pain. Whatever her life was is NOT anything she really dreamt of or even wanted. But she felt so trapped and didn’t know how to get out. She kept on convincing herself she needed to do this for her dear child – but she wasn’t sure she would live long enough to raise him.
By the time she was done pouring her pain out; I asked the Holy Spirit – How does one recover from all these layers of pain and abuse?
Abuse is defined as “to be misused, used improperly or to be wasted; to use in such a way as to cause harm or damage; to be treated cruelly.” Any time we are misused or used for a purpose other than what God intended, it’s damaging. And I realize many people can relate to this. For some of you reading this article, I’m just telling your story. You know what it’s like to live with a terrible, shameful secret that is eating you alive.
I see me. I see Pat. I see hundreds of girls we serve through our ministry. I see the many texts I receive after television shows and from social media; from parents, youth, older women and men reaching out to seek for help. I read of the thousands of girls trafficked every day and how some human is profiting from that as a trade. The thousands trapped in the red light districts; living off drugs to help them forget the sorrow of the day. I read of the hundreds dying; some committing suicide, many murdered for saying it’s enough – I want out. I see children born without Fatherhood identity – there is just no way their moms can identify who was really responsible. I see daughters that have known perversion as a form of love. They are ashamed of themselves and ashamed of the people that abused them. Constantly afraid and with such a low esteem. Pretending to live a normal life but feeling so lonely all the time and different from everyone else.
I may never imagine the extent of this damage. How many destinies have been crushed? How many more shall it take until we see change?
Even after years of dealing with these experiences almost on a daily basis – I never get used to the pain. I have learnt to allow myself to feel all the emotions. And I encourage you to do the same. It is ok to ask questions. It is ok to cry. It is ok to feel bitterness. It is ok to lash out. It is ok not to have answers. It is ok not to know what to say.
There is a reason why we have the book of Lamentations in the Bible. I want to believe God understands that we experience human pains – that is what makes us human. Sometimes we completely lose it – and ONLY GOD knows how to raise us up!
As I prayed through the session with Pat – I heard the Holy Spirit whisper Ezekiel 37:3 – child of mine (Son of Man), can these dry bones live again?
I find comfort in knowing that there is a God who is able to re-write stories of death – into stories of Life and significance.
Annabelle Nakabiri Ssebakijje
Founder and Executive Director
The Remnant Generation (www.theremnantgeneration.org)
Annabelle is a survivor of sexual abuse and child marriage. She has dedicated her life to rescuing lives of teen moms that have survived sexual abuse in Uganda.
by Melissa Heiland, Founder, Beautiful Feet International
As a Christian, I am very concerned about the outrage of human trafficking. As a founder and director of multiple pregnancy help organizations, I am concerned about how we will respond to this issue in our centers. While I’m no expert, I have attended a number of conferences and seminars in an attempt to learn all I can about human trafficking in an effort to help our centers recognize victims and respond to their needs. Here are some basics I want to share with you in the hopes that we can help, as we are called to do, one girl at a time.
Traffickers can be anyone - male, female, even family members. I had wrongly assumed that traffickers were strictly male. In fact, women are commonly used to recruit victims. They are typically women who themselves are being trafficked and part of their “job” is to recruit other victims, but family members traffic children too. In our centers in Costa Rica, we have rescued girls who were being trafficked by their own mothers.
Victims will typically protect their traffickers. They are typically bonded to their traffickers by something called a “trauma bond” which is similar to Stockholm Syndrome. This means they will not easily tell others what is happening to them.
Victims typically will not self-identify. They view their actions as their choice. Even though, in most cases, they are being beaten, raped, and abused in every imaginable way, they have been convinced they have just made bad choices and it is their own fault. They do not view themselves as victims. Again, this means that they will not readily report what is happening to them because they do not even understand it.
Signs to Look For:
*Visible signs of abuse*Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder*Change in physical appearance*Tattoo they are reluctant to explain (pimps will often brand victims)*Appears exhausted*Unexplained absences from home*Multiple cell phones or constant attention to cell phone*Refers to “daddy” (common name for pimp)*Involved with male who is older, controlling*History of multiple pregnancies*Disconnected from family*Lost interest in age-appropriate activities*Always accompanied by someone at visits*Withdrawn, depressed, distracted or checked out*Brags about making or having lots of money*Displays expensive clothes, accessories or shoes
Obviously, any or all of these signs do not necessarily mean a girl is being trafficked. They are, however, red flags that can help us to be alert and perhaps ask questions to help discern if our client needs specialized help.
If you suspect abuse, it is important to speak to the client privately. Most pregnancy centers already have policies in place to speak to clients privately without friends or family members in the room. It is important to recognize that victims of trafficking do not trust others easily, for obvious reasons. You can not expect them to open up about their circumstances during an initial visit. In our case, the girls had been coming for some time before they revealed the truth to their client advocate.
Question to Ask Because the victim, will not typically recognize herself as a victim of human trafficking, we must be careful how we ask her about her situation. Most victims of trafficking are seen by professionals during the time they are being trafficked, but state that no one ever asked them about their situation. Experts in this field recommend we pose this question: Have you ever had to exchange sex for anything of value (money, food, shelter, drugs, clothing, etc.)?
Principles for Working with Victims
*Safety- physical and psychological* Trustworthiness and Transparency- making them aware of the process*Collaboration and Mutuality- working with them*Empowerment-strengths are recognized and validated, building new skills supported*Voice and Choice- giving them meaningful choices
As I look at the principles necessary for working with victims, it is obvious to me that as pregnancy help organizations, we employ these principles on a regular basis. We strive to create an environment where our clients feel safe and respected. We strive to be trustworthy and transparent and to help her recognize her strengths. We want her to make healthy choices based on truth.
Spiritual ImplicationsAll of humanity needs to be rescued. Jesus is the true Rescuer and Redeemer. He has ultimate power over all sin and all things are possible in Him. He desires to make all things new. When a client comes to know Christ as Savior, she is forever changed, regardless of her past. The Lord wants us to share His love and redemptive power with each of our clients. They need to know that Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead. We have the joy and privilege of letting them know that they have a Savior who loves them enough to die for them.
Number to Call1-888-373-7888 is the National Human Trafficking Hotline. This is open 24/7 every day for reporting in the US.
Melissa Heiland, Founder, Beautiful Feet Internationalwww.beautifulfeetinternational.com www.melissaheiland.com
1. Slaying the Giant, Shared Hope International2. From Survivor to Thriver, Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey3. Holy Bible, English Standard Version
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