In the Know: A Survivor's Perspective June 2017

Buried Treasure by Amy Andrews

Treasures most often come in the most damaged containers and in the most inconspicuous places, buried in unknown locations or clutched in the filthy, dirt-ridden hands of those who've managed to hold their grip through the storms.

Treasures can seemingly pass us by without a second thought, especially when they show up without any great effort of sorts or with no real appearance of value or purpose. What a shame.

What a shame that we can overlook life's most valuable gifts, because we don't recognize what they are or see how they can reward us. The deeper problem is that often times the people in our lives who should be the most treasured, simply aren't.

Why?

Why do we discard the ostensibly useless ones? The messy and incredibly unpolished ones? Do we know who they are? Do they know who they are? Most likely not. Which is exactly why we relinquish these treasures.

Certainly, if someone came into our lives perfectly arranged, able to identify exactly what value they possessed without a single drop of effort on our part, we'd be more inclined to grasp onto them and, in many ways, fight to hold on, right?

Therein lies the issue. They (myself, included) don't know their identity. Why? Because it's been robbed. Stolen. Compromised. Circumcised. Excised. Programmed. Humiliated and hidden. In fact, many of the treasures in this world have spent so long being and doing what everyone else wanted them to be, there's really not even a sense of human existence left. They (We) become amoebas seeking the direction of least resistance … even if that means a route filled with grief, pain and loneliness.

This, my friends, is a crisis. It is the original form of identity theft. It is the brutal corporeality that faces trafficking survivors across the globe. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day. This is not just a social issue we've created through the abuse and oppression of human beings either. It is by all means a psychologically manifested disturbance that has been looked at for decades by famed theorist Erik Erikson. In fact, he knew that if a person couldn't form his or her own identity internally, then, similarly, he or she couldn't form it amongst others either. Basically, if I don't even know who I am from within, how can I know who I am outside of myself?

What a dilemma we have here! People who've survived extended periods of torture and abuse stand before you, waiting … waiting to see what it is you'll declare them to be. Will they be the victim, bound to give you your evidence in order to receive immunity? Will they be the waste of your time who just "keeps going back?" Or the 'Ho' who dirties up your street? Maybe they'll be the girl you've been on your knees praying for, until...

Until she says she wants no part of your God. What then? Huh? What then?

You see, survivors – we, them, us -- are trying to figure out the difference between who we are and what we've become in order to survive. We've become addicts, thieves, robbers and bottoms. We've become manipulative, selfish and packed full of rage. The problem with all of that is, because we don't know who we are, we don't have a creative or healthy outlet to shed those learned identities, so we learn to live with them. 

Make no mistake about it, there are certainly parts of us that seem to be naturally born, but how do we really know, when the seven ounces of gray matter in our skulls has been so programmed for so long? We may not ever know until it's too late.

Enter late Survivor-Leader Jennifer Kempton. What a beautifully tragic tale of survival … of what one soul is capable of, despite what life threw her way. Jennifer was many things in life. Mother, sister, friend, aunt, survivor-leader, activist, speaker, founder of a non-profit that helped hundreds of women, a dreamer and a believer. She had a sea of people who watched her soar to success in record speed ... silently ... with their hands out. I wonder how many knew her daily struggles? Very few, I can promise. Why? Because if she, just like me, can't fill the ticket, then the show must change, and she had things that she just needed to get done. Aside from that, how could she allow strangers into her circle, who would only gawk with awkward disapproval at failure? Those who would mirror an undefined fire, consuming everything it touched, as though it was a bad thing. Ultimately, Jennifer footed the bill society left her with after she made drastic changes in the human trafficking movement with her tenacious spirit. 

But who did you know her as? Who do you know me as? Can you be present in every moment, as we scramble through the rubbish trying to find our identity? Or will you fade away as we dig for our own buried treasure, within?

With over 10 years of experience working with trauma victims, Amy Andrews-Gray is executive director and co-founder of Survivors Consultation Network, which provides crisis interventions, trauma informed advocacy and mentorship, placement assistance and court advocacy. With over 25 keynote speeches and more than 55 public appearances, Mrs. Andrews-Gray is also a well-known and established public speaker. She speaks at conferences and holds informational workshops and trainings on issues related to human trafficking throughout the United States for public, private and government agencies as an independent consultant. Amy has experience speaking to and training psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, law enforcement, teachers, high school and college students and counselors, as well as spiritual and religious individuals. Her inclusive approach holds great value in breaking apart the roots of human trafficking in a collaborative way. She enjoys incorporating humor into her public appearances due to the level of seriousness the topic of human trafficking carries. She occasionally performs spoken word and is a published poet and playwright. She is a certified human trafficking advocate, a certified court advocate and a true subject matter expert. She works collaboratively with NGOs and governmental agencies to develop strategies for best practices, and she has also developed a vicarious trauma prevention retreat model for survivor leaders. During her career, Ms. Andrews-Gray has accomplished many firsts. In 2014, Amy was the first trafficking survivor in San Bernardino County asked to accompany law enforcement in a nationwide sweep, (Operation Cross Country.) She was asked to provide advocacy to the victims who were arrested. Amy’s organization is also the first to secure trafficking-specific housing for a minor victim, have the courts release the victim to her and then transport the victim to the facility. Amy enjoys spending time with her children and her dog "Maggie." Her heroes include: Harriet Tubman, Dr. Patch Adams and the late Jennifer Kempton of Survivors Ink.  

With over 10 years of experience working with trauma victims, Amy Andrews-Gray is executive director and co-founder of Survivors Consultation Network, which provides crisis interventions, trauma informed advocacy and mentorship, placement assistance and court advocacy. With over 25 keynote speeches and more than 55 public appearances, Mrs. Andrews-Gray is also a well-known and established public speaker. She speaks at conferences and holds informational workshops and trainings on issues related to human trafficking throughout the United States for public, private and government agencies as an independent consultant.

Amy has experience speaking to and training psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, law enforcement, teachers, high school and college students and counselors, as well as spiritual and religious individuals. Her inclusive approach holds great value in breaking apart the roots of human trafficking in a collaborative way. She enjoys incorporating humor into her public appearances due to the level of seriousness the topic of human trafficking carries. She occasionally performs spoken word and is a published poet and playwright.

She is a certified human trafficking advocate, a certified court advocate and a true subject matter expert. She works collaboratively with NGOs and governmental agencies to develop strategies for best practices, and she has also developed a vicarious trauma prevention retreat model for survivor leaders.

During her career, Ms. Andrews-Gray has accomplished many firsts. In 2014, Amy was the first trafficking survivor in San Bernardino County asked to accompany law enforcement in a nationwide sweep, (Operation Cross Country.) She was asked to provide advocacy to the victims who were arrested. Amy’s organization is also the first to secure trafficking-specific housing for a minor victim, have the courts release the victim to her and then transport the victim to the facility.

Amy enjoys spending time with her children and her dog "Maggie." Her heroes include: Harriet Tubman, Dr. Patch Adams and the late Jennifer Kempton of Survivors Ink.