Recognizing Abuse….

Serious content alert. No matter what we might say publically, most people are willing to believe that abuse doesn’t happen to people that we actually know and certainly not in “nice” families. The concept of human trafficking is the stuff of novels and movies. There is a program in town called Start Off Smart (SOS) at http://startoffsmartinc.com that was established to try and address the root causes of domestic violence and other abuse and raise awareness of the very real issue of human trafficking. Sadly, Florida is one of the leading states in this plague because so many people who want to immigrate are vulnerable to exploitation. I won’t go into graphic details, but local human trafficking often involves forcing individuals into labor situations that are in essence modern day slavery. These people are often in the country illegally and therefore, how can they ask for help? One of the most effective ways for ordinary citizens to assist is to understand that it does exist and if a situation seems suspicious or if someone comes to you for help, don’t dismiss it as “not possible”.

Domestic abuse is always a sensitive issue because aside from the fact that no one wants to accuse someone in error, there can be other reasons to not want to be involved. After all, how do you initiate a conversation with someone asking that question? Since I have personally never been a witness to such a thing (to the best of my knowledge), I don’t have a good answer. What is important though, I think, is to find out what resources are available in your area so that you know what to do in the event that you do become aware of a problem. Another aspect is that if you are looking to volunteer, helping with a shelter or other program might be something to consider.

I spent time this morning with an extended family of three sisters and a mother and then another woman, all of whom finally broke away from abusive relationships and/or marriages. There were multiple generations of abuse and more than anything, the women want their children to understand that this is not how things should be. As heartbreaking as their stories were, the fact that they were able to find a program to help them rise above what had happened was uplifting. No, abuse is not a pleasant subject, and perhaps you will never personally  encounter it. But I would urge you to check into your local resources as a just-in-case sort of thing. You never know who you might be able to help.

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