Autumn Burris: Founder/Director Survivors for Solutions
More Than a Story…I love Survivor Leadership by Autumn Burris Thank you Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) for developing a forum where Survivors can highlight their vast knowledge and expertise via In the Know-A Survivors’ Perspective. TAT is not only innovative and phenomenal in combating sexual exploitation in the trucking industry; it is continually inclusive of the survivors’ voice in the most respectful and appropriate ways. This treatment as a subject matter expert is refreshing after many years of watching survivors be tokenized for their story and left out of developing solutions entirely. Stories are an important part of creating awareness, informing, and educating; however, it is not the totality of our lived and professional experiences. Each and every one of us is way more than what happened to us in systems of sexual exploitation. Prior to the Survivor Leader movement over 17 years ago, I was able to exit sexual exploitation with the guidance of survivors. Due to their honesty and sharing of their lived experiences, I was able to begin my journey to healing. Survivor Leaders offered a safe place where society’s stigma and judgments were relieved in that moment-a place to laugh, cry and just be me. I am continually provided with clarity in my own life, a safe place where we understand each other often without the words, an irreplaceable place of support and encouragement and leadership. These are the reasons I feel so strongly about Survivor Leadership and hope that all exploited have the opportunities I have so graciously and openly been afforded by my peers. Over the years, I have witnessed firsthand the intellect, the compassion, the dedication, and the passion in countless Survivor Leaders in a variety of capacities. I learn from each and every individual no matter where they are in their journey. My belief and hope is that we are in this together in the spirit of assisting our brothers and sisters out of a life of sexual exploitation and our diversity as well as our similarities are our strength, not our weakness. In my local community, another Survivor Leader and I created a monthly meeting to gather, share our work, support each other, and strategize about solutions. In a donated space and enjoying potluck meals, we meet to develop a sense of community among ourselves, strategize how to make our city more survivor-friendly and inclusive, combat re-exploitation and partner for the greater good of our communities. The cost is minimal and the benefits are many. I am delighted to be conducting two conference workshops this year, one national and one regional, entitled More Than A Story. The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report recognizes Survivor Leadership this year’s theme is entitled, “The Journey from Victim to Survivor”. These efforts are a call to action for agencies and organizations to include survivors from the Board of Directors to the chambers of Congress as well as in training curricula and the development and delivery of programs serving exploited individuals. My “More Than A Story” is that I love Public Policy. I am excited to hear what your “More Than A Story” is and read future TAT blogs highlighting the vital voices and life’s work of the many Survivor Leaders that include a multitude of our expertise, talents, and passions. Due to both our similarities and diversities, I feel there are vast opportunities for creating a strong sense of Survivorship and ways we can collaborate to institute real change, eliminate sexual exploitation and serve those that are exploited right this moment. Together and in partnership, we are strong! In Survivorship & Partnership, Autumn Burris, Founder & Director of Survivors for Solutions
In the Know: A Survivor’s Perspective will be a monthly blog segment. We are excited about the opportunity to hear from survivors and learn from their expertise and experiences. Thank you to Ms. Burris for being our first guest blogger for this series. We love her work!