While most Millennials are busy looking for their niche in the world, Social Worker Hillary Osborne is using her time to tell a different story. In 2012, Hillary stood among over 60,000 young adults and felt her heart break as anti-slavery organizations came together to raise awareness on a horrible injustice that is at an all time high. Shaken by a passion for change, Hillary works each day to empower beautiful, amazing women as they heal from the past and move toward their dreams.
Rest Stop Ministries is an expense free program that partners with survivors of human trafficking. The organization serves as a harbor for women. “One of the most important points is to surround the women with positive language. For example, we use the words survivor instead of victim,” she said. “We look for strengths. At one point they were victims; but at Rest Stop Ministries, they are survivors. Survivors of rape, childhood sexual trauma, bullying but mostly survivors of shame. Shame that the world places on them for being a prostitute despite never knowing her actual story.” These women are incredible survivors, and as Hillary reminds us “people are who they are for a reason.”
The Holy Spirit ignited a fire in Hillary, and she knows that she is called to play a first-hand role in the restoration of these survivors who she also calls her friends. “I grew up in a strict Southern Baptist church where we didn’t talk about the dirty stuff. I saw women with great hearts who weren’t involved with the nitty gritty. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I wanted something different. I felt like God calls people to the hard places, not just the church pew. In my first internship, I saw women that only needed to be loved. I wanted to be something different for them. I wanted to walk through life them. The reality is that we have to be immersed in it. It’s not that showing up and cooking [a meal for the girls] isn’t great, but [people need more]. Our mothers taught us as they lived life beside us. People need that love even it was difficult. It’s about hugging someone when she is cussing you out. It’s about remembering the baby she lost and holding her hand when the emotions are overwhelming as she cries out to God, ‘Why me?!’”
Awareness of human trafficking is more prevalent than ever thanks to anti-slavery campaigns and media coverage. “The situation is more day to day to me than global. Many people knock the media’s approach, but awareness is important. However, I caution the portrayal of the media’s presentation. It drives our feelings, but there are girls behind the scenes impacted by the trauma of the situation. They are just real people to me, real people struggling in everyday life. Women who are afraid to sit in a coffee shop alone because ‘they’ might find her there. No one should have to live like that, so I want to provide a safe place, a stable home and a loving environment where they can learn that all people are not bad and there is beauty in the world.”
The 27 million continues to be 27 million over the years. The 27 million is important because it helps us realize that human trafficking is a problem, but we need to think about what we are doing for these actual people.
Hilary works with diverse women from an array of ethnicities, economic backgrounds, and social arenas. These girls are people that Hillary loves who have overcome extreme challenges. “There are situations like certain beds cannot be used because it could be a trigger for a girl who was left handcuffed to a bed for several hours.” She shares, “many of the girls feel safer in jails or prisons because no one can get to them there. In human trafficking, the women are diminished to nothing. It becomes a new standard for them to be called idiot instead of their name. That’s why we refer to them as survivors because I’m not so sure I would have been a survivor if I grew up answering to the name ‘idiot.’ There is something in them that assures them that what they experience isn’t right and helps them to fight for their lives. But over time, even that sentiment is eliminated as they move farther from the feeling of safety. That’s why we have a responsibility to pray for them and donate to causes that help them. We need to be a part of something greater than ourselves.”
Contrary to popular belief, women, as well as men, aid in selling women. Hillary said that survivors often feel like all men are evil. But they also present another reality that the low perception of life is a problem that lies within the human heart. Many people don’t know that pimps come in all shapes in sizes. They are parents, women, law enforcers and other unprecedented people. The sobering truth is that countless women are forced to participate in various facets. It becomes an identity. Before they even realize it, they are used to engage another woman; and although they think it’s choice, it isn’t. It’s a daily fight. Women that have played this part experience tremendous guilt and shame for recruiting other women into the cycle of prostitution, and it’s a sobering reality that many survivors have to endure.
Hilliary explains that women she works with have encountered it all. The CEO. The homeless man. The pastor. The father. You name the class, and women have been forced to serve as a temporary satisfaction–a momentary diversion for one person that is life altering for another. A fulfillment that is never just for a moment but is forever.
Why? Because society has become lackadaisical about sex. For one, Hilliary explains that we don’t provide a clear understanding of sex. Often, “we ask teenagers to sign a purity covenant when they have no concept of the reason.” But Hilary sees more than the culture’s flippant views on sex. She describes a societal shift to a ‘just go for it’ attitude. Go for whatever will please you. “It’s all about what satisfies—the house, the car, the credit card. It’s the notion that because my wife doesn’t fulfill my desires anymore, I need something else. At the end of the day, it’s a selfish mentality of wanting more. The thought, I need more sex. Younger sex. Multiple people. Bondage. It is a complete distortion of God’s ultimate design and all that He intends for good. Satan will always attempt to distort.”
We search to find answers to the evil in the world. We feel the brokenness when we hear of such exploitation. Do we go to great lengths to fight? Or do we give up altogether? How do we keep those that we love safe when we hear these bloodcurdling stories? “It’s about worth and value.” According to Hilliary, the most important question is “Where do we get our worth and our value as women, men, human beings?”
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
Rest Stop Ministries has a needs list on the organization’s website. “Do your best to contribute to your community. Give locally. Global missions are great, but there are immediate needs. Find out what your gift is because it’s important and it can help people. If you know your gift, you can gift it to other people. Organizations aren’t going to call you and say we need this.” We all have a part to play. “It’s important to find something you are passionate about and go for it.” Research. Go. Volunteer. Serve “If you know [your values and your worth], you can give it back to other people. That’s what life is about to me.”