January 23, 2021

Survivors don’t need your pity

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By Miriam Karmali, Freedom United

It’s time to call it out. Many media outlets, journalists, and even well-meaning organizations continue to cover stories of modern slavery in sensational ways, complete with click-bait titles and offensive imagery of survivors chained up with duct tape plastered over their mouths.
 
We know public pressure is successful in driving change.
 Just a few weeks ago, the International Slavery Museum in the UK faced massive criticism — including from Freedom United — for partnering on an art exhibit filled with traumatic images of trafficked women, billed as “giving a voice to the voiceless.” Survivors have a voice and it should be empowered.

Thanks to the public backlash, the International Slavery Museum backtracked and announced that it would take down the exhibition.[1]
 
With your help, we can change the narrative by speaking up when we see problematic, disempowering representations that violate our My Story, My Dignity guidelines. These are a straightforward set of rules for organizations to follow to ensure that survivor stories are presented in an accurate, dignified, and ethical way.
 
Today, we’re asking for your help in calling out media outlets and organizations that violate our My Story, My Dignity Guidelines.
 
Just tag a media outlet or organization on Twitter and encourage them to do better by signing on to our My Story, My Dignity guidelines.
Tag an organization
Violent, traumatic images of human trafficking are designed to grab our attention and elicit strong emotions of pity. That’s precisely the problem.
 
Survivors of human trafficking aren’t looking for your pity —they’re looking for your solidarity in fighting for social and political change.
 
Yet their fight is often undermined by sensational, paternalistic coverage that paints survivors as helpless, even “voiceless.”
 
Much in the same way many in the human rights community have objected to international aid agencies using disempowering images of emaciated, impoverished children in the Global South, we must reject coverage of modern slavery that reinforces stereotypesof survivors of trafficking as weak and in need of saving.
 
That starts with changing the public narrative. Please share our My Story, My Dignity guidelines with media outlets and organizations that would benefit from taking the pledge
 
In solidarity,

Miriam and the Freedom United team
 
P.S. Not on Twitter? You can also find organizations’ email addresses and invite them to sign the pledge via email. Or find them on Facebook!
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