Warning: possible rape triggers.
Saw Human Trafficking recently, about the business of trafficking (mostly) young women to be used as sex slaves. It was intense, so I recommend you chase it up only if you have the stomach for such things, but there were several things I liked about it.
Firstly, kudos to the producers for not showing the rapes and most other abuses meted out to the women. They illustrated the deep trauma without using images that might be perceived as pointless titillation.
But what really got my attention was a conversation shared between Customs Agent Kate Morozov (Mira Sorvino) and Helena, one of the women they’ve rescued. Helena describes some of the horrors she’s endured, and inquires about Kate’s interest in human trafficking. After all, it’s a job where there are few rewards – the perpetrators almost always go unpunished, and what victims they do rescue are forever traumatised – that is, if they don’t die soon after from AIDS or Hepatitis B.
Kate relates an experience growing up in Russia – her uncle raped her, and her father’s refusal to believe such an accusation against his brother led to it happening at least once more.
In the last year or so, I’ve become very aware of the pointlessness of most rape experiences in fiction – they’re there either to facilitate the hero’s ‘rescue’ act, or to explain the victim’s screwed-up mentality. But not for Kate. It’s obviously a huge motivation for her, but not the be-all explanation to who she is. She’s as well-adjusted as you can get given the circumstances. She isn’t completely screwed up, or waiting for her Knight in Shining Armour to come and Make Things Right.
In the same conversation, Helena asks Kate if, after such degradation, you can ever get back your dignity?
Yes, Kate replies. But it wasn’t theirs to take away. It was only yours to lose, and it’s only yours to find again.
I loved the challenge she issues to women to reclaim their dignity – or not to lose it in the first place – that to allow the perpetrator such a thing was to give them more power then they’d executed in the first place. Kate had been the victim of a sexual predator, but she refused to stay one. And she encourages Helena – and other women – to do the same.