Alastair McIver
Whither the rescued?

By guest contributor Alastair McIver

People trafficking is one of the great evils of our day. It has been going on for decades, even centuries. Work slavery, human transportation, sexual exploitation and debt bondage, to name but four, are not new, but – in an age of instant, round the clock news - they have entered our vocabulary as day to day occurrences, neutralising our feelings and transitioning them from outrage to apathy.

By paying lip service to the growth and scale of the issue, we have become immune to the problem on our doorstep, failing – even forgetting – to understand that every story that we hear about in the news, every incident reported on the television, every raid on a brothel, every rescue from a house, affects lives, each one a victim of crime.

Old or young, male or female, white or black, southern hemisphere or northern hemisphere, we are all made in the same image, and every criminal act of cruelty is a treachery by one human being against another.

Whether someone has been tricked, transported, trafficked or tortured, the outcome is the same…physical and psychological horror which remains with that person for life…or does it? Could it be that the point of healing becomes the start of the long road to recovery and if so, what can we, as individuals, churches and charities, do about it?

One charity that has been working with women in ‘recovery’ in this area for nearly a decade is Talitha Arts, which uses the creative arts to restore hope to those who feel hopeless.  Talitha Arts began working with young survivors of sex trafficking eight years ago. The charity has facilitated many therapeutic creative arts workshops for many girls and women in the UK, Bolivia and India over the years.

Its therapeutic practitioners have discovered how brutal and dehumanising human trafficking is – reducing life itself to a commodity. Those victims who have been through it have endured persistent physical, sexual and psychological/emotional abuse and carry deep internal and external scars of trauma, low self-esteem, shame and a sense of their ‘voices’ being silenced.

Rather than expecting them to speak about their experiences, Talitha Arts integrates movement, art, music and drama in therapeutic creative workshops to provide a safe place for the women (some as young as 12) to connect with their creativity and express themselves freely.

‘Kaysha’ (not her real name) was just 14 years old and was trafficked within India. Since arriving at the aftercare home in Kolkata she had made three suicide attempts and was self-harming regularly. Although she refused to see a counsellor, she agreed to attend the Talitha workshops. At first, she presented as very reluctant and was clearly struggling but over time, the charity’s practitioners witnessed this young girl’s increasing engagement. She loved to dance as part of the programme, and on the last day, she ran into the office to show the social worker her art work. Speaking with the charity workers afterwards, the social worker said: “what have you done with this girl - it’s such a transformation?”

Talitha Arts has had the privilege of working with many young women like ‘Kaysha’ who remind us of the God given gift of the arts as tools for healing and change.

The arts are a powerful medium through which girls like Kaysha can process their feelings and feel affirmed again.

Potentially, therapeutic arts is one way that the church can get involved, through training willing practitioners, or supporting local or national charities like Talitha Arts in their work.

Talitha Arts runs training days and courses for churches. Could yours be one of them?


Alastair McIver is Head of Fundraising and Advocacy at Talitha ArtsTo contact him, email alastair@talitha.org.uk

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guest contributors are those of the author. Although broadly in keeping with the objectives of Jubilee+, the views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Jubilee+ team and directors and/or other contributors to this site.