“I remember the day when I first saw men and women in uniform and thought ‘that’s what we stand for — freedom’,” said Rebecca McDonald referring to U.S. Soldiers she saw in Bangladesh.
McDonald gave a series of lectures here at Fort Bragg this past week titled “Hope, Healing and Restoration,” which focused on how to cope with abuse.
The lectures were aimed at giving hope to victims of abuse and teaching Soldiers and their Families to foster healthy relationships with citizens here in North Carolina, especially the youth. McDonald travels the world giving lectures like these to inform the public about the threat of sexual trafficking and what can be done for the victims.
She is the president and founder of Women at Risk International. WAR International assists women, children and men caught in cycles of abuse and sexual trafficking; and is active in 40 countries, providing safe houses, and job training to those in need.
“My mission is to create circles of protection; if we would all do that, we would change our communities,” McDonald said.
For McDonald, reducing the suffering from abuse and human trafficking has been her life’s work. McDonald saw, firsthand, abused women and children growing up in Eastern Pakistan. She tells the story of a friend who, at age 14, became a victim of sexual abuse. The friend fought back against her attackers and had acid poured down her throat as punishment.
McDonald said to Paratroopers and their Families, “I’m asking you to send a message that they (the abused) deserve to be treated with worth and dignity.”
The Polaris Project, a national organization that raises awareness and compiles data about human trafficking, currently ranks North Carolina 8th highest for human trafficking in the U.S. Worldwide profits from human trafficking are estimated at $32 billion each year.
These statistics illustrate the reality of human trafficking, but hearing accounts of rescue and empowerment can have an additional impact. Attendees learned about abuse victims who had bounced back from unimaginable atrocities like, the girl who had acid poured down her throat, demonstrating the power of the human psyche.
People are inspired by the stories of the resiliency of the human spirit, said Lt. Col. Jack J. Stumme, the 82nd Airborne Division Chaplain. Stumme coordinated the lecture series for the Division and Fort Bragg.
“It goes back to that invisible damage; you can’t give them a cast or a pill, but you can give them hope,” said Stumme.