Posing at a trafficking presentation in Manitowoc are (from left) Sr. Celine Goessl, trafficking survivor Morgan Meadows and Sr. Kathy Lange. The three women will collaborate on a series of trafficking presentations in the Diocese of Superior in September and October. (Submitted photo)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

Morgan Meadows’ childhood was the stuff of nightmares. Abused, molested and used for experimentation, she was still a teenager when she was entered into an arranged marriage with a convicted felon who had himself been molested by his brother and a priest.

But Meadows has triumphed over trauma. A doctoral candidate studying transformational leadership, she is devoting her life to helping fellow trafficking victims thrive. She also serves as a consultant to nonprofits, individuals and agencies that aid survivors.

“I chose this concentration because of my calling to make the restoration of survivors of human trafficking a priority in our communities – through helping to facilitate community-led programs and projects,” she said.
Meadows, along with Holy Cross Srs. Celine Goessl and Kathy Lange, will offer a series of presentations on human trafficking across the Diocese of Superior in September and October.

Presentations are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at each location. Dates and places are: Sept. 17 at St. Francis Xavier Parish, Superior; Oct. 1 at St. Joseph Parish, Rice Lake; Oct. 2 at Immaculate Conception Parish, New Richmond; and Oct. 11, at St. Mary’s Parish, Tomahawk.

Teaching community members how to recognize and report trafficking; educating them about victims’ needs; and building communities that support trafficking survivors are among topics on the agenda.

First and foremost, “Victims need to be brought into safety; to rest; to have medical and dietary needs addressed; addiction complications addressed; and to be empowered to become self-supporting and spiritually awakened,” Meadows said.

In collaboration with Srs. Celine and Kathy, Meadows will speak about her experiences as a victim and survivor of trafficking, and her plans for the future – to complete her doctorate and “facilitate the building of a modest learning design center campus, with housing, which accommodates those who have been trafficked” – during the two-hour talk.

Meadows also wants to encourage others to use their gifts to stop trafficking and support survivors. A Unitarian Universalist, she believes in the power of prayer and in the faith community as a safe haven and healing place for victims.

“Prayer is the first line of action in helping address the complexities of assisting survivors, and in eliminating the conditions that make human trafficking profitable monetarily,” she said.

“The Bible, at I John 4:18 reminds us that ‘Love casts out fear’ because love is stronger. Trafficking exists because of larger social issues, and there are gifted people who can look at these social ills and move the political and social processes forward to address them. But there is no time to just wait for something to happen,” she added. “We are the way and the means that God can use now.”

A story of exploitation

Morgan Meadows
Sepecial to Catholic Herald

My first experiences of exploitation through human trafficking occurred when I was 3 years old. This was in 1963. My stepfather, a young veteran of the Navy and a budding mechanical engineer by degree, was also associated with bikers, skydivers, and law enforcement – which meant a drug and alcohol culture mixed with risk-taking behaviors. What began as pornographic photo shoots eventually led to physical and sexual violence, both in the homes where we lived and wherever I was taken over the years. We moved upwards of 30 times by the time I was 15.

On two occasions, before I was 11 years old, marks on my body alerted a school nurse (doing routine medical exams) that all was not well. Despite child protective services having brief involvement in those two inquiries, no safety or resolution of repeating trauma was forthcoming. Rather, I was effectively labeled a liar: a girl with an overactive and morbid imagination.

If I could have had a voice back then, and the words to articulate my reality in a way that others might have understood, I would have said something like this: Yes. Overactive imagination! I was using my imagination all the time, trying to imagine a different life for myself. A significant amount of my youthful energy was spent in dissociating during trauma and then trying not to dissociate the rest of the time. My imagination was not interested in more trauma or drama, but in for creating a positive – if make believe – alternative to that which I could not otherwise escape.

My experiences with being trafficked came in cycles, often around holidays. Unlike the documentaries of recent years, which often feature young females under the control of a pimp and who are almost entirely used for sexual exploitation, I was used for domestic services and psychological and physical experimentation, in addition to some forms of sexual exploitation. It wasn’t until I was 10 that I began to comprehend that money was involved. If anyone had asked me if I was being trafficked, I would have had to ask: What’s that?