I was having afternoon tea with some out of town visitors this last week. It was lovely. And they are lovely. In the midst of our conversation the husband mentioned domestic violence. He was talking about how we've cleaned up the words of "giving your wife or kids a bash" to this term domestic violence. I had to stop and think about it cause I'm just very used to calling it that. But he's right. The term domestic is not a commonly used term outside of flights and talk of terrorism in some contexts. And while it has become a colloquialism to say you're having a domestic with your spouse here in NZ(very tongue in cheek that one) doesn't it just do the job of making us a little more comfortable discussing it around a plate of biscuits and a cup of tea?
The reason this struck a chord is, I heard recently a similar argument for not calling human trafficking human trafficking. The call was to replace it with modern day slavery. Which is more uncomfortable. Let's be honest, we don't like to talk about slavery unless it's well removed an in the past. And even then it has to be pretty sanitized for us to be ok with it in discussion.
However, working in "human trafficking" do you know what one of the first questions is to most people I start a conversation with is? "Human trafficking....what's that?" In one way this can be a good thing. It's nice to not have people assume they know what you're talking about and therefore shut off. But on the other hand, using the term in broad advertising and advocacy to shed light on the problem means that the message likely isn't getting out there unless you're having a one on one.
Also, it makes it easier to distance yourself from. If I talk about human trafficking, I sound like I'm maybe giving a lecture. A lecture is something the listener can either toss out as silly and unfounded or listen to and interact with. Do I want listeners to be able to dismiss what I say about this issue as an intellectual exercise? Well, no.
Because this topic isn't an intellectual exercise. Not at its core. It's young women in horrible home situations going out to make their lives better and being taken in by even more abusive people. It's parents selling their children into work or sexual slavery because they are so poor they don't see other options. It's women being desperate and taking a job in another country only to have their employer enslave them. It's men trying to make enough money for their family only to be killed because of horrendous working conditions and not enough pay to even get back home.
Modern slavery is every bit as horrific as what slavery in the past was. And it's a lie that it ever went away. It did not. It just changed it's face so that people would stop looking at it and fighting against it. And I'm not sure we're doing those men women and children any justice when we refuse to even be inconvenienced enough to call their situation what it is. Slavery. Abuse. Horrific.
I'm not saying this is easy. It's not. It's awful to look at human suffering and the degradation that causes it. But are we being as respectful as we can be to the victims if we are more worried about how it feels to us to describe what they've gone through? I'm not sure. But it's worth pondering. And I think for me I'm going to adhere to the advice to call it modern slavery.