#DSBChat version 1.0 – a summary
The realities of human trafficking are horrific.
So it makes sense that much of the imagery in the movement to end human trafficking focuses on the atrocities we seek to end. But there are dangers to this approach too.
- Do images of violence sensationalize or oversimplify a crime that often involves subtler forms of coercion?
- How can we tell the stories of survivors without re-exploiting them, or dehumanizing them?
- How do we strike a balance between justified outrage and anger and a more hopeful, constructive vision of solutions?
These were just some of the topics that inspired Don’t Sell Bodies’ first twitter chat - a virtual event that we envision as a space for reflection, discussion and learning on the challenges this movement faces. (Check out #DSBChat on twitter for past and future conversations.)
Moving beyond stereotypes
We started out by asking what the movement can do to share the gravity of the issue, without resorting to stereotypes. The Irina Project – an initiative of UNC focused on responsible reporting of human trafficking – suggested there was a need for a broader range of voices – voices who are typically excluded from the conversation:
Presenting “whole people”
This was a point echoed by many participants, including Maia Sciupac – who suggested that it’s not just about including survivor voices – but presenting them as whole people:
Whole people who are much more than what has happened to them:
Responsible use of statistics?
This concept of “whole people” fed into the discussion about statistics – with some participants expressing concern that a focus on the big numbers can act to dehumanize the problem. The International Justice Mission argued, however, that it is not a question of whether or not we talk about statistics, but rather how:
The question of dignity came up often.
Survivors as experts, not stories
There was a sense among many participants that survivor voices are often only listened to on a superficial level – as a cautionary tale regarding the gravity of the human trafficking issue. Many argued, however, that the true value of survivor voices lies in concrete, actionable knowledge of how human trafficking happens and what, specifically, can be done to fight it:
While there was concern about how the term “survivor” is used as a label, Rani Hong suggested that it still has value – but that it should be used with care:
There were also questions raised about how and if differences of opinion are heard within the movement:
Minh Dang raised concerns about further segmentation and discrimination under which survivor voices even get heard – suggesting that her status as a female, educated, Asian American English-speaker has afforded a much broader platform than might be enjoyed by non-English speakers, or male victims of trafficking, for example.
The issue of language, in particular, prompted comment on some very specific need among journalists covering the issue, including foreign language skills and training on how to sensitively and effectively interview survivors:
Although there was also a sense that things may be improving on that front:
Fair treatment of survivors
Meanwhile Holly Smith raised another crucial concern about how survivors are treated within the movement – suggesting they are often under-compensated for their time, when compared to other “expert” voices:
Hope versus fear
And there was lengthy discussion about the relative values of hope versus fear – and how each might be used within a broader strategy for change:
Ideas for future discussion?
Ultimately, our first inaugural #DSBChat raised many important areas for discussion and further reflection. We will be developing these chats into an ongoing, monthly forum for debate – focusing on critical issues for the movement. Please use the comments section below, or contact us on twitter, if you have ideas for future topics – or suggestions on how best to utilize this format to the benefit of the movement. To paraphrase the words of IJM, we’re only going to win this fight together:
Stay tuned for the next installment.