We finally did it! We have started our own organisation: IMPACT: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict. How were we able to make this giant jump? Where did it all begin…?
Finding your true passion is not an easy task, finding a partner with a similar passion and vision is nearly impossible to realise. We have been lucky to cross each other’s paths and to be able to put to practice our common belief that if we all contribute, we can make this world a better place for everyone.
Human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence are not ‘easy going’ subjects. Why decide to specialise in these phenomena? Whether it is for profit, power or for demoralising purposes, in both of these crimes human beings are the targets. Vulnerable people – men, women and children – fall to be victims of the cruel intentions of others. We have taken this intrinsic injustice of being targeted for the simple reason of being in a more susceptible position than others at heart. It has motivated us to contribute to addressing and combatting these crimes and to support and give a voice to those who are unable to fight against this injustice alone.
For a few years we have been contemplating setting up a center of expertise. Even though we both were already doing research, giving advice, offering training and education, and implementing empowerment projects in our particular field of expertise, we felt that we could accomplish even more when we would join forces.
While human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence may, at first glance, appear to be very distinct wrongdoings, in practice the underlying issues are the same, particularly when focussing on human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The forms of sexual violence that may come into play, the stigma that is still persistent in relation to female perpetrators and male victims, the difficulties children face who are born as a result of the crimes are just a few of the cross-cutting issues that both phenomena share.
By combining the knowledge of two distinct fields, we aim to be able to contribute in a distinct way to the quest of combatting both crimes and to offer justice to victims.
We aim to contribute in several ways. Firstly, through research and advice, we want to bring about knowledge-driven change in practice and policy. We currently look, for example, into group dynamics of victims of human trafficking and see how negative group dynamics can be positively influenced to ensure the safety of victims and their willingness to report their case. Secondly, by providing education, we regularly educate young professionals and students/graduates in our fields and raise awareness and contribute to spreading general knowledge about conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking. You can think of the 2017 Summer School realising Gender Justice we organised and taught where students learned more about the challenges and opportunities in combatting human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence. In addition, since we always continue to learn, our third contribution is through training and capacity building of professionals in the field, such as our training on the prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence to Ugandan judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and victim representatives. Finally, we focus on empowerment projects and advocacy, where the victims of the crimes and their needs are central. After all, they have been our main drivers to undertake action and to realise impact in combatting conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking. A second, updated edition of the book “The Men Who Killed Me”, consisting of stories and photos of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence who want their voices to be heard, will be our first empowerment project to be undertaken as IMPACT.
Thus, enough to be done and plenty to be accomplished. We are very much looking forward to the journey ahead!
Anne-Marie and Eefje
P.S. Don’t forget to follow us via social media (@impctnow)!
We are ready to jump!!!