My journey will not be an easy one, but most things that are easy are not worth it. In my research this week I came across the concept of “survival sex.” In the context of migration, you have women who flee their homes for a variety of negative reasons (if women are safe and supported they don’t leave their homes). Either in transit or once they arrive at a new residency, such as a refugee camp, they may not have a job or any sort of income, so they sell the only thing they have – their body. This is what they call survival sex because women are selling sex to pay for food or transit or shelter. It’s what they have to do to survive and often help their families survive.
I learned of one story that was of a family of 6: dad, mom, and four kids. They paid someone to help them leave their home and find safety in a new location. Along the way, their “guide” demanded more money, of which they had none. So the husband offered his wife as payment and she was forced to have sex with this man every day for 30 days.
What I can not accept about this term is the word sex. Sex is consensual, however when you are selling your body as payment to survive how can that in any way be actual consent? These women would not choose to engage physically with these men if there was another alternative so, therefore, even though it is not physically forced by the man per se, it is circumstantially forced, and thus is it rape. This is survival rape and these are crimes against humanity.
Whenever I hear or see people complain about immigration or not want to take in refugees, I remember these stories. Their refusal to help is facilitating survival rape. I wish more people took the time to understand the realities people are facing. One of the most impactful memes I have seen had an image of refugees in a boat, that face death at sea rather than stay in their own country, and it said: “They wouldn’t put their children in the boat if the land was safe.” You don’t risk your life and the lives of your children unless staying is a greater risk.
If people knew the stories would it make a difference? Would they be moved with compassion so much that it would overcome their fear? I believe for some it would, I know for others it would not. So I appeal to the some. Learn the stories of refugees, why they left, what they risked and what they had to face on the way. What they left is often horrific and unfortunately the path out is often the same.
I hope you never have to face the decision of the risk of violence or death in staying in your home or fleeing, and if you don’t, I hope you think of those who do and are moved with compassion. Until our global leaders can provide stability and safety for all countries, we need to remember these people and offer them the safety they can not currently find at home and not contribute to environments that breed survival rape.