What Does It Mean to be Safe?
by Sister Kathleen Bryant, RSC
Neurologists say that our brains are always scanning for information, for danger, for distraction like a vacuum cleaner! The stressful lives that we lead are not healthy for our brains. We all need time and space to just be, and to awaken to our safety and well-being. One of the meditations designed by Dr. Rick Hanson, helps us to rewire our brains so that we can be more mindful and contemplative. I use this meditation with a diverse population and ask them for an image that makes them feel safe. In silence and as one of the steps they sit still with that image and it has effects on the body and their wellbeing. You can view powerpoint slides of his meditations and neuroplasticity of the brain here.
What does this have to do with human trafficking? After rescue and during rehabilitation, how do we help our survivors experience safety? How safe can they be if they are living in the same city as their trafficker? How do we help with their healing process by creating safety “zones” in their lives? I have used this meditation practice with women and it helps cultivate a sense of safety and peace.
One of the most effective programs for trauma healing that I have ever experienced provides protocols for helping people get to a safety zone. Pat Cane, Founder and CEO of Capacitar trains people to use these healing protocols with survivors of trauma and violence. Using a rich menu of tai chi, fingerholding meditation, acupressure, pal dan gum, tapping, and more, the survivor is equipped and empowered to be part of her or his own healing process. All you need is your breath and your body. You can view the emergency kit at on capacitar.org in several different languages. Look at the home page for stories of work with trauma survivors globally as well as efforts to nurture peace is some very violent parts of the world.
Safety has been foremost on my mind because of a recent tragedy in which three girls were shot, or executed, on Easter Sunday night at an orphanage in a nearby country by a cartel. They had been victims of trafficking and the cartels controlled the market. No photos or places can be disclosed with reverence and protection of those who loved them. However, this story will give you an understanding of the total control and lack of any safety these girls experience here.
At a FADICA gathering in February this year, a few of us were asked to speak about human trafficking and the border between California and Mexico. Little did we know at the time that some of the stories we shared of escape, healing and support would have such a brutal ending. The most recent girl was rescued was one year old. Did the traffickers want her for child porn or for her organs? This is the reality we deal with and pray for an end to this unspeakable exploitation.
I thought of all the effort that went into helping these young girls with rehabilitation—medical and emotional—surgeries and therapy, and yet one shot ended it all. We wrestle with systemic change when we work for justice. We advocate, meet with government officials, march, educate and try to prevent. How can we imagine possible ways to go to the source of this trafficking enterprise and find ways to diffuse their power? There is no true healing if the survivor does not feel safe. These executions sent a clear message about who is in control.
As people of faith we believe that good does defeat evil, that Light can penetrate any darkness. In this Easter season, how can we nurture faith in the transformative power of suffering and death that ends in new life? I struggle as I see their faces and know their stories. It impels us into further action with the powers that be. Our contemplative lives, if authentic, impel us into social action. Otherwise, we sit in impotent silence.