Christine Stark

What does Survivor Leadership mean to you?

Speaking the truth in a good way, with respect, is how I strive to behave.

How long have you been in the movement against human trafficking?

I have been an unpaid, grassroots organizer for 32 years. I am also a novelist, essayist, speaker, and researcher.

What are you greatest accomplishments in the movement against human trafficking?

The three most important accomplishments are my novel, Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation, which was a Lambda Literary Finalist; my involvement in the research project “Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota” (available online); and my research about the trafficking of Native women and youth on the ships in the Duluth, Minnesota harbor, which is included in my article “Strategies to Restore Justice to Sex Trafficked Native Women.” My second novel, Carnival Lights, is due out in March, 2021. I’m excited about the release of Carnival Lights.

What is one thing that carried you through the years as you transitioned from victim to survivor to now leader?

I have never identified as a victim. Once I escaped the perpetrators in my family and the larger trafficking ring that raped me, I immediately became an activist and began speaking out and organizing against rape. My disgust with injustice and lies and hypocrisy and my care and love for those harmed are what have carried me through the years.

What are some challenges you have faced in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation as a Survivor Leader?

As this work has become professionalized, professionals with limited knowledge and understanding of prostitution and sex trafficking have taken over and many have actively kept survivors out, or tokenized and patronized us.

What advice do you have for younger Survivor Leaders who are just beginning their journeys?

Find your joy and the gifts you bring to the world and nurture, value, and cultivate joy and your gifts in your life.

What advice do you have for the anti-trafficking movement as it relates to Survivor Leadership?

Stop treating us as the “other.” A few differences in our lives and we could just as easily be you, and you could just as easily be us.

To honor Norma Hotaling, what would you say to her survivor leadership or about her fight against commercial sexual exploitation?

SAGE was an incredibly important organization. We need many more survivor-led organizations like SAGE and Breaking Free, which is still in operation.