‘Slavery is Rampant, Fear and Shame are Traffickers’ Weapons’

Editor’s note: A few months ago, Marti MacGibbon sent us a copy of her memoir, ‘Never Give in to Fear.’ In one section of the book, she recounts her experience being trafficked from the U.S. to Tokyo, where she was forced into the sex trade. After a long road to recovery, MacGibbon is now a […]
December 9, 2010

Editor’s note: A few months ago, Marti MacGibbon sent us a copy of her memoir, ‘Never Give in to Fear.’ In one section of the book, she recounts her experience being trafficked from the U.S. to Tokyo, where she was forced into the sex trade. After a long road to recovery, MacGibbon is now a motivational speaker and substance abuse counselor, guiding others to self determination.

I am Marti MacGibbon, survivor of human trafficking. That I survived places me among the ranks of the lucky. In 1985, I was an emerging standup comic with a scheduled appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.  I thought I had it made – but soon became entangled in the San Francisco drug scene and developed an addiction, which made me vulnerable to traffickers.

I was trafficked from San Francisco to Tokyo and held in slavery for less than two months before a “customer” helped me to escape. Although brutal, demeaning and terrifying, the experience I lived through was mercifully brief. I am deeply grateful for my rescue, but the things that I endured have changed me forever. Yet I carry the realization that the happiness I experience today is not in spite of, but because of, the things I have overcome.

Rescue was only the beginning of my decades-long search for a safe place after such trauma. I suffered from post-traumatic stress. In those days, few resources were readily available. The term, “human trafficking” was not yet a part of the popular lexicon, and abolitionists had yet to gain the legislative victories of the ensuing decades. Distrust kept me from contacting the authorities; I dreaded reprisals from the traffickers.

I suffered in silence, desperately struggling to carry the pain, shame and fear that  engulfed me. Nightmares ravaged my sleep. I used drugs in an attempt to manage my distress; my addiction nearly consumed me. For ten years, I could not find a safe place within myself.

But as I said, I am lucky. I eventually found love, recovery, self-acceptance, and healing. The first step in recovery from trauma is to find a safe place—first externally, then internally. Recovery from addiction was my first step to safety. With the help of support groups I learned valuable coping skills and stepped out of isolation.

I learned how to create a safe place within by allowing myself to study and utilize gratitude and serenity, then becoming conscious of the love and trust which binds the universe together.  I engaged in therapy for PTSD, where I discovered how to create a safe place to heal, and how to use mindfulness meditation to manage fear.

As my healing progressed, I obtained education, training, and certification in substance abuse treatment. I’m dedicated to helping addicts break free, and devoted to the abolishment of modern slavery in all its forms. I have begun telling my story because I believe it may help to raise awareness about human trafficking and inspire others to join the fight.

Until I recounted the trauma in my memoir, ‘Never Give in to Fear,’ I’d kept my story secret. With healing, I came to believe that I needed to make my story known. Slavery is rampant today and fear and shame are the traffickers’ weapons. I will not be silenced by their arsenal. Finally, now that my book is out, the nightmares have ceased. My life is full of joy, love, and the optimism that courage brings.

I am deeply appreciative of Free the Slaves and other grass roots organizations for establishing safe places for those who have experienced misery and terror at the hands of traffickers. The goal of recovery is not merely to survive, but to thrive. Respect, consideration, dignity, and advocacy help lay the path to full recovery, and the people at Free the Slaves work hard to provide such resources.

Can you help end the conditions that cause modern slavery?

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