Breaking Down the Silence
From the Field
Periodically, staff at the Resource Center submit their reflections on their experiences to share what is happening in the field. They’re encouraged to include suggested titles for their stories. A recent one caught my attention: “Sharing About Feelings is Not Wrong!” Coming from the U.S., where we’re often accused of oversharing, I’m tempted to chuckle at the cultural differences, though of course it is no laughing matter. Where many American teens might have to be reminded to be more modest, Thai teens, especially the ones with whom we work often have to encouraged to share their concerns with those they trust, to not shoulder heavy burdens all on their own.
We work to prevent trafficking, but for many of these kids, their primary concerns are not the nebulous threats of would-be traffickers, but the very real concerns of having parents who are alcoholic, or addicted to drugs or gambling; of having teachers who harrass or even abuse them; of having intense worries and anxieties they cannot share because to complain would be seen as disrespectful. To argue would be considered a grave insult. To cry would be a sign of weakness.
At the Resource Center, we try to hold activities that encourage the students to share their feelings, and to discuss together about better ways to help resolve conflict, manage disagreements, and solve problems productively and proactively. In a culture where differences are repressed and problems are ignored to save face, teaching a child to speak up is almost an act of rebellion; at the very least it requires courage. We try to teach them to stand up for themselves in ways that are respectful to themselves and to the others around them; to teach them that managing conflict appropriately (rather than running from it) is an act of love in itself. It encourages honesty and collaboration.
These lessons may seem mundane, but they are actually the front line in the war against trafficking. It’s when the children become alienated from everyone around them that they become vulnerable to traffickers. When the little, sometimes petty dramas escalate, distancing the children from their protectors, traffickers can more easily charm them away, promising easy solutions. By helping to keep the bonds between child and family, friends, and authority figures strong, we are helping to protect the children not just from the struggles they face daily, but also from the dangers they don’t see.