Sister Terry Shields, a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, is the treasurer for Dawn’s Place, a nine-bed shelter for the victims of both international and domestic commercial sex exploitation located in the Greater Philadelphia area. Speaking at a recent human trafficking conference held at Cabrini College, Sr. Terry told the audience about a young woman who had been arrested 52 times during her heartbreaking experience as a victim of the sex trafficking industry. Her criminal record was recently erased of these arrests that made her out to be the villain, not the victim, because she’d been offered and had accepted a helping hand, one which chose to love her, not leave her. Hers was a story of perseverance, of triumph in the face of modern-day slavery.
Sr. Terry shared that a yearning to belong and to be loved is an answer as to why a trafficking victim is vulnerable prey for pimps and traffickers. And, once that love’s finally offered, it’s easy to believe that it’s for real. If someone’s perception of love is stunted through past experiences, she can easily fall prey to a pimp’s seemingly generous promises of a warm bed, a hot meal, steady income and work, and a hand to hold when times get tough.
These women are looking for love, just like us all. Dawn’s Place, and which shelters like it, provide an organic sense of community, of compassion. This shared community is critical in the process of rebuilding the women’s broken lives; after all, they share one common struggle, and one common goal: of being loved for who they are.
The most critical thing is for us to maintain a level of compassion for victims. We must act with compassion; we must look for – and provide – love across all borders; we must recognize our shared humanity, and aim to ensure the guarantee of liberty for everyone. At times, it’s just about being with someone else, sharing your true self with him or her, and accepting their true self in return. Without providing acceptance – without providing love – what good are we?
Learn more at Brandon Desiderio’s Cabrini College Loquitur article: Looking for love, just like us all.