Where Do You Draw the Line?

  • “Stop acting so ghetto.”
  • “You look like a hot tranny mess.”
  • “You’re such a girl.”
  • “That’s so retarded.”
  • “She’s just a slut/ho.”
  • “That’s so white trash.”
  • “He’s just a bubba/redneck.”
  • “That’s so gay.”
  • “What do you expect from an old geezer?”

Shame is something many of our clients know all too well, especially those who are coming to terms with their sexual orientation and gender identity. Layer on top of that additional stressors in which they have little-to-no control, and the result can be traumatic.

Montrose Counseling Center’s Anti-Violence program is the benchmark provider of GLBT-affirming services for victims/survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and hate crimes, and because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we want to draw a parallel between the first two – sexual assault and domestic violence – with that of human trafficking.

MCC has built mental health service protocols relating to these kinds of trauma for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, and the victims of all three tend to suffer similar mental health consequences. Chief among them is shame. Even when we hear others say that it wasn’t your fault, it’s not that easy to shake the feeling. Society has a way of telling us that we should have been smarter. We should have seen it coming. We shouldn’t have put ourselves at risk. But the truth is the only person at fault is the abuser.

It’s not easy to find a way out, especially when you need help and one of the defining components of the violence is the fact that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. All of these crimes are vastly under reported, and it’s no surprise given the reluctance of even the general population to reach out to law enforcement or social service providers. Less than 20 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported to police. Within the borders of Texas, it’s estimated that one in five women, and one in twenty men, have been sexually assaulted. How do you know you deserve better and take the first step toward recovery when your abuser has whittled away your self-esteem?

These crimes are even more under reported within our community due to the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity remain stigmatized in our society.

Human trafficking is at its core enslavement or involuntary servitude, in which persons are forced or coerced into labor and/or sex trade against their will by persons who use various control techniques, such as rape, severe physical punishment, holding the victim against his/her will, threats of violence against family members, etc.

Many people who are being trafficked don’t even know that’s what’s happening to them because they see their abuser as a boyfriend or lover who gives them a place to stay, clothes to wear and food to eat. But that often comes at a heavy price. This is very similar to domestic abuse in which the batterer makes the victim wholly dependent on him or her. Victims of human trafficking, like indentured servants, often become captive to the demands, desires, whims and bidding of their benefactors in order to pay back the so-called “generosity” afforded them. In that way, the trafficker is no different than a pimp. Traffickers are especially savvy in picking up vulnerable GLBT youth who have turned to the streets after being kicked out of their homes.

Through a partnership with Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition, Montrose Counseling Center is reaching out to GLBT victims, primarily gay men and transgender women, to let them know that they deserve better; they deserve culturally affirming assistance, and they are not invisible to area service providers or law enforcement.

If you believe you are being trafficked, please call 1.888.3737.888 for help. If you are the victim of a hate crime, sexual assault, or domestic violence, call Montrose Counseling Center at 713.529.0037 or call Gay & Lesbian Switchboard Houston at 713.529.3211 to get in touch with an emergency advocate.

Like sexual violence and domestic violence, human trafficking is a crime of oppression. All forms of oppression contribute to a society that allows for this abuse to take place, regardless of whether the abuse is based on gender, age, appearance, size, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or economic class.

What can you do to affect social change? Familiarize yourself with the clues around you to determine if someone needs help and refer them to the appropriate resources.

Take a stand against all oppression whenever you see or hear it. Don’t use or allow others to use hate speech in your presence. Don’t criticize people for being “politically correct.” There are good reasons for adjusting language, not the least of which is to stop congratulating those who are “brave” enough to perpetuate bias.