One of the key components of my legal training was the importance of defining terms. Please consider the term “victim” for a moment. How would you define this term?

The dictionary would define a victim as someone who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency, which is a bit formal for my taste and the Amara context. Personally, I define a victim as someone who was harmed by an event or another person. Although it’s unpleasant to think about, I ask you to consider for a moment a time when you were a victim. What was that experience like for you? What impact did it have on you? How did it change you and challenge your sense of identity or your worldview?

Now let’s consider what it means to be a survivor. How would you define that term? Honestly, one of the first things I think about is the Destiny’s Child definition, which has some great lyrics like “You thought I’d be weak without you/But I’m stronger”. When I personally define the word “survivor” I visualize someone rising up out of a bad circumstance, overcoming it and moving forward, with knowledge, power, and grace. I also like the dictionary definition of a survivor as someone who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

Now I ask you to think about a time when you were a survivor, or a way that you are a survivor today. Once you have that in your mind, take a moment to consider the resources that it took for you to move from being a victim to a survivor, whether they are your own inner resources and strength or the help of others. What resources were necessary for moving forward with your life?

The mission of the Amara Legal Center is to provide free legal services to individuals whose rights were violated through commercial sex. Many of our clients are survivors of sex trafficking. Speaking broadly, legal services are often required to help victims in any context become survivors who are rebuilding their lives. Hiring an attorney is expensive for anyone and often prohibitively expensive for many survivors, which is why providing these services pro bono is so important.

As an attorney helping with Amara’s case work and as a board member I am honored and empowered by the chance to support survivors in reclaiming and rebuilding their lives. Each survivor’s journey is different, but for many of them legal assistance is a key piece. And now, thanks to Amara, that’s a key piece of the puzzle that is no longer missing for many brave survivors in the DC metro region.

By Rebecca Ballard