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“Speaking out makes me feel that I have value and something to add to the world.”

Nikki Bell, a graduate of The Voices and Faces Project‘s “Stories We Tell” testimonial writing workshop, believes that her story is her power. And she’s using it to create change.

When people talk about trafficking and exploitation, they often focus on its impact on those who are currently “in the life.” But being bought, sold, or exploited can leave wounds that linger long after someone has left the sex trade.

Nikki Bell wants people to understand that. An outspoken activist on behalf of other survivors of exploitation. Nikki – who exited the sex trade years ago – is speaking and writing about her own experience in order to change the conversation we’re having about prostitution and trafficking.

As part of that effort, Nikki joined in “The Stories We Tell,” The Voices and Faces Project’s immersive, two-day testimonial writing workshop created for survivors of gender-based violence and other human rights violations. Being a part of the writing workshop was transformative for Nikki.

“I always appreciate coming together with other survivors of gender-based violence, but this was something different. The workshop created an atmosphere where I could share my writing without fear of stigmatization or shame,” says Nikki.

“I learned that my work didn’t have to be linear to be powerful. That writing about a dream can be a form of testimony. I also benefitted from the feedback our workshop leaders and others in the room shared. “The Stories We Tell” helped me add a level of creativity to my writing that makes it that much more impactful.” That creativity is evident in “I Dream of Simple Things,” a moving piece inspired by Nikki’s memories of being prostituted. Her piece tells the world a story that needs to be heard and serves as a reminder that the wounds we experience can stay with us long after we’ve made our way to a safer place. Put another way: even when survivors exit “the life,” the life sometimes stays with them.

This article originally appeared in “The Stories We Tell“, North America’s first two-day testimonial writing program for survivors of gender-based violence. Original link: http://voicesandfaces.org/workshop/Bell.html

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