Every time I see news like this one, it makes me angry. This time, I have an additional reason to feel angry. The article is about sex trafficking in Indonesia, my home country. I know that the problem of human/sex trafficking happens in many places, Indonesia is just one example out of many. However, it doesn’t lessen the reaction and feelings aroused in me.
It is not easy to face news like this. In addition to feel angry, I also feel embarrassed. I am embarrassed and angry because, let’s face it, who would want to see incidents of human/sex trafficking to happen in their own backyard. Unfortunately, these incidents happen in almost everyone’s backyard, sometimes it is even so obvious. And what do the rest of the neighborhood often do? Turn a blind eye and look at another direction. Why? Because it’s easier to do so rather than face the problem and look it in the eyes. Even when people finally have the courage to face the issue, the most common question they would ask first is, “So what can I do about it?” Yes, what can they do?
This question of what can people do reminds me of an event that happened recently. Several weeks ago, the movie Breaking the Silence was shown at my school. The movie is about the plight and healing process of torture survivors to break their silence and speak the truth of what happened to them. Not what I would categorize as an easy movie to watch, mind you. When the documentary movie was shown, I happened to be at my internship clinic and found two other colleagues hanging around at the clinic, keeping themselves busy with things to do. I told them about the movie and asked if they were interested to see it. They said yes and, after making sure that it was okay for them to leave the clinic, they went to see it. Afterwards, I spent some time to talk to them about it. I was interested in their thoughts and reactions about what they saw. They were both intrigued by what they saw. One interesting, but not surprising, point they both mentioned is the feeling of helplessness they felt at the end of the movie. The conversation and discussion that was facilitated after the movie helped a bit, but the helplessness feeling continued all the way back to the clinic, and I was lucky enough to witness and be part of it. So, we talked, and it was a good talk.
People often feel discouraged and helpless when hearing or reading news like this one. I realize that the strong reaction these types of news aroused in people sometimes can cause a slight different action than what would ideally be expected. Rather than becoming angry, which would then propel them to do something, people may feel helpless, which unfortunately may lead to further passivity. Not exactly what we would want to see, but it can happen. What I said on that day to my colleagues is that we can first acknowledge the feeling of helplessness and then try to understand the origin of that feeling. Often we feel helpless because we view our part as a tiny influence only to the vast problem and, therefore, we question the impact of our action. Many tiny and individual actions, however, should add up and make a big influence as a whole. Also, we can reframe the way we view helplessness as the beginning of our journey in becoming more socially conscious of the issue. I remember saying that I would rather feel helpless than not feel anything because I know that feeling something, even though it is only helplessness, means that the issue has touched me. The next step then is crucial, which is not to let the helplessness grow into hopelessness.
Sex trafficking is a one of many major, serious, world-wide problems, and human trafficking is even worse. At times, the line between sex and human trafficking is non-existent. Just like the problem of using torture, there are a great deal of actions that people can do; people like you and me, regular and non-famous citizens of the world. We should not underestimate our power to influence others, though. We may just have to aim small first towards people around us, such as family members, friends, colleagues at work and school, or neighbors. How about influencing others through the power of writing or by passing information online. Perhaps, by being touched by these issues and becoming familiar with the plight of survivors of human trafficking, torture, or other forms of human rights abuse, next time when we are coming across opportunities such as this article or looking at our backyard, we won’t turn our face the other way and walk away. Perhaps. Let’s hope so together.