Betrayal. It is an experience that all of us have most likely experienced at some point in our lives. Someone whom we love and trust betrays our relationship in ways that can harm us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This experience of betrayal, of broken trust, can contribute to the hardening of our hearts. It can make us doubt other relationships in our lives or impact future ones with the fear and pain that lingers about who we can really trust not to harm us.
In my work with U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, I see all too frequently, through the violence of human trafficking, this betrayal of trust in relationships. Traffickers often use a process called grooming to build up a sense of trust and even love with the person they are seeking to exploit. Once they have established that trust, they betray it by starting to sell the other person for purposes of sexual or labor exploitation, for their own economic gain.
Trafficking victims and survivors know all too well this passion of Christ—being sold out by someone they thought of as friend, family, romantic partner, or even spiritual leader—and turned over to the hands of those who inflict incredible violence against them.
The hope I see in the readings for today though, in the midst of this betrayal, is the reminder that no matter what, God is still with us. God is the one who will never abandon or forsake us, who will love and defend us, and will accompany us in our healing.
For those survivors who are able to escape from their trafficking situation, this healing process can be long and complicated. But just as I have witnessed the pain and trauma, I have also seen the presence of hope and resurrection in many survivor leaders I am blessed to work with. Those who have experienced such harsh violence and betrayal have found ways to create new, healthy relationships, to begin to trust again, and share and experience true love. And we can too.
- What experiences of betrayal still need healing in you? How can you invite God more deeply into your healing journey?
- How or when might you have betrayed someone who trusted you? What can you do to help bring healing and reconciliation to that situation?
Jennifer Reyes Lay is the executive director of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, a collaborative, faith-based national network that offers education, supports access to survivor services, and engages in advocacy to eradicate human trafficking. She has a master of divinity from Eden Theological Seminary, and an honors B.A. in theology and international studies from St. Louis University. Jennifer is an ecofeminist theologian and midwife of justice who lives in St. Louis, MO, the ancestral lands of the Osage, Missouria, Kickapoo, and Miami.