It was years ago, speaking with someone I had thought I knew well. But the longer she talked, the more sick-to-my-stomach I felt. I had been in relationship with her and her husband for over 30 years. Through the years, I had witnessed the deep love they shared. As such, it was especially difficult for me to hear her story. “I was raised in a time and a place where the man was boss,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we were not in love; but frankly it was also clear that I was his possession. ” It was this last word: “possession,” that was the most challenging for me to hear.
There were two other times in my life that another human being told me that they were somebody else’s possession. One was a woman who lived in modern slavery, and the other was a young person who was in a very abusive situation. I did my best to listen and to understand, and to help.
All three of these conversations were some of the most difficult I have ever been a part of. Human history has a long and sordid past of treating people as property. Women, children and those from minority ethic, religious or geographical backgrounds have been treated with particular injustice.
At our recent convention, I stated: “Every day young people are bought and sold — every day, in Minnesota.” Subsequently, a number of people have shared with me how shocked they were that young people in Minnesota were being treated this way. It is shocking — the fact is human trafficking is very prevalent across our country and, yes, right here in Minnesota.
One of our core values is, as we proclaim in our Baptismal Covenant, that we will “respect the dignity of every human being.” Any time, in any situation where we treat another as: less than, inferior, or as our possession — regardless if they are our spouse, child, employee or anyone else — we are no longer respecting them as a human being or as a child of God.
Please get involved. Please pay attention. Please become aware that those who may be being treated unjustly may be closer than we think.
If you hear that someone you know is being treated as a possession, here are places for you to turn for help and guidance:
If you or someone you know has been forced into prostitution in Minnesota, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 888.373.7888.
If you believe that a child is being exploited or treated as a possession, contact your county’s human services department for help.
If you believe an adult you know is being exploited or abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)