When I first wrote an email to International Justice Mission about our trip to Thailand and my desire to partner with them I knew it was a long shot but the small voice inside me had become too loud to ignore in the weeks and months that preceded that moment so, with latte in hand sitting at my computer while my son played trains at my feet I wrote an email. I had heard about IJM's work in rescuing and advocating for young women that had been violently abused and trafficked. This is an epidemic that we can forget exists in our small corner of the world. But for our family the issue of sexual abuse and the brokenness of the systems set up to protect victims was becoming all too real. After I read The Locust Effect I could not shake the stories. I had heard the statistics about this epidemic and while they would momentarily arouse me from my affluent and privileged stupor I would soon fill my lives with the immediate. But the stories of girls the ages of our girls that had been abused, trafficked, and/or raped and then even after rescue had no recourse for true justice left me sleepless and wondering if we really believe ALL people are created in His image because our (and my own) inaction tell a different story. "Sexual violence is a truly global epidemic that leaves millions around the world terrified in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. Sexual violence can include rape, molestation and other forms of sexual abuse. Although anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, this form of violence most frequently impacts women and girls—and impoverished women and girls are particularly vulnerable." -IJM. After several more "coincidences" of mentions of IJM's work in a podcast or a book a friend recommended that mentioned IJM I decided to see if I could use this passion for photography to help IJM tell these important stories.
When I got the email response that I would be photographing young women who were bravely fighting through the broken systems to seek justice in their cases I just sat at my computer reading and rereading the specifics (that I cannot share here) of their stories. They were now young women I would meet and be trusted to capture part of their story and that felt weighty. I sensed then and experienced even more after traveling to Thailand the importance of the HOPE that can come from people standing together to fight injustices, to use their collective voices to join in to say these young women and their families and their stories MATTER. It was an amazing privilege to meet the brave men and women who work for IJM; many of whom have to keep their identities a secret because of the potential risk to their lives. The support for their clients in court and through after care is remarkable. I learned rescue is only a small part of the story. It was a gift to meet the young women making brave choices in the face of grave evil and injustice to believe and show us all that hope and justice ARE POSSIBLE. The few images here are from one story I covered while in Thailand and these images protect these young women's identities as their cases are ongoing. IJM will share more as the cases progress and hopefully I can share more about the important work of IJM through images and stories soon.
After spending time with IJM employees and clients in Thailand I was changed. I am still processing and learning and trying to find my way amidst what God is showing me. Seeking justice is bold and brave in world that seeks to devalue women and girls. Seeking justice is difficult because systems, families, and in our very selves there is deep brokenness. Seeking justice is powerful because it communicates that we are all human and therefore valuable and precious by our birth right as beings created in the image of our Creator. Learn more about IJM's good work in preventing, advocating for, and helping victims of sexual violence heal here
"IJM is an international human rights agency that supports the world's largest corps of local, indigenous advocates providing direct service to impoverished victims of violent abuse and oppression in the developing world." Gary Haugen in The Locust Effect.
This image reminds me that we can choose to be distracted from the issues of justice for all people because there will always be life moving quickly all around us but truly looking and choosing to SEE and Hear the stories can change us. Friends- please join me to pray! Educate yourself! Mourn injustice (but do not stop there)! Pray! Act! Advocate!
April is sexual assault awareness month so after reading more and seeing Griselda's* story my older girls wanted to get involved in making a difference! The result: Baked Goods for the Good! If you are local and would like to support Annikah's efforts to Be the Good please reach out!