This series introduces our partners meaning organizations who fight various forms of violence including human sex trafficking, bullying, sexual abuse, neglect and promote moral courage in their own special way in different areas of life.
This articles shares an interview with 414 Generation, a social enterprise fighting sex trafficking and its effects. You will be able to understand more about human sex trafficking, its effects, its personal side and what you can do to fight human sex trafficking. Enjoy!
What inspired your organization’s creation?
Generation 414 is about raising up a generation that will not keep quiet about the injustices of the world. The biblical book of Esther verse 4:14 inspired our organization’s mission:
“If you keep quiet, the people will perish. Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.”
What is your organization’s mission?
We are a social enterprise that support survivors (women and children) of sex trafficking by providing dignified employment and education opportunities. Currently, 45.8 million adults and children are victims of slavery around the world today. Every year, about 2 million children are victims of the global commercial sex trade. Women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
What is the true magnitude of human sex trafficking across the world?
Sex trafficking is a crime when women, men and/or children are forcefully involved in commercial sex acts. Worldwide, estimates say that there are 4.5 million victims of sex trafficking. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority.
How widespread is Human Sex Trafficking?
UNODC has been collecting international statistics on detected victims of human trafficking since 2003. Data shows that human trafficking occurs in every region of the world. States can be the origin, transit or destination country for victims, or even a combination of all. The collected data provide information on victims that were in contact with authorities. They do not reflect the actual prevalence of the crime or the hidden number of victims.
How do the victims typically end up being sex trafficked?
Worldwide, false promises are ways in which traffickers bait and enslave their victims – both adults and minors. Indigenous populations and those who live in abject poverty are typically economically and politically marginalized. Thus, most lack rights and access to basic services such as education. That makes them particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking.
Many times, people from these communities are offered false employment opportunities in major cities. For example, men and boys are sent overseas to work in construction and agriculture. But they are also forced to perform commercial sex acts. Women and young girls may be offered jobs as models, nannies, waitresses or dancers. Some traffickers operate under the guise of agencies that offer cross-country dating services. However, upon arrival, these individuals end up abused, threatened and sold in the sex industry.
In what way do women, children, and men become victims of human sex trafficking generally?
Often, traffickers keep victims under their control by saying that they’ll be free after they pay their debt. The “debt” is supposedly incurred from the victims’ recruitment, transportation, upkeep or even their crude “sale.” Thus, sex trafficking may occur within debt bondage/bonded labor. Victims of sex trafficking may eventually perform other functions, in addition to being forced sex workers. Some traffickers use sex trafficking victims to recruit or transport other victims.
As a result, when authorities catch sex trafficking victims, they might be detained and prosecuted for criminal activity (e.g., prostitution). However, a legal charge is only one area of concern. Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for the trafficked individual. Victims may suffer from long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, malnutrition and social ostracism.
What are the physical and psychological effects of being a victim of human sex trafficking?
The Physical Effects
Sex trafficking is a complex problem because the victims experience physical and psychological harm. The traffickers use physical violence to dominate and control their victims. Some of the tactics include starvation, beatings, rape, and gang rape. Victims also experience violence and harm from some of the people who are purchasing the sex acts. Common injuries include broken bones, concussions, burns, and brain trauma.
Moreover, victims can also experience gynecologic health problems that stem from forced commercial sex acts.
They might suffer from
- sexually transmitted diseases,
- menstrual pain and irregularities,
- miscarriages, and
- forced abortions,
among other problems.
The Psychological Effects
The psychological impact of victimization may be more severe than the physical violence (WHO, 2012). Victims who have been rescued from sexual slavery, typically present with various psychological symptoms and mental illnesses, including the following:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorder
- Suicidal ideation
- Stockholm Syndrome
- Substance abuse
Can you tell us the story of a person who has gone through human sex trafficking? What did it do to them and how have you helped them?
When I was working in America, I was consulting for an organization in Atlanta, Out of Darkness, whose goal is to break the cycle of sex trafficking one woman at a time through their Princess Night outreach program. Every Friday, trained Princess Night volunteers would go into “red light” areas in Atlanta to hand out roses and handwritten cards of encouragement.
It was a way to build relationships and trust with the women the organization was trying to reach. We let the ladies know that they are loved and beautiful. We asked if there was anything we could pray with them about. This presented a chance to make sure they had our 24/7 hotline number that they could call any time when they needed rescue.
One lady called the hotline to asking for rescue.
When we went to pick her up with our rescue van, all she had with her were the clothes on her back and a box. She showed the rescue workers what was in the box. It was full of all the cards she had collected from our volunteers over the years that she has been on the street.
Many a time, she told us, she wanted to end her life. But then a card and a rose would be given to her. And there, on the card, would be those handwritten words of encouragement that would keep her alive for another week. This went on for a few years. Until finally she plucked up the courage and made a decision to change her life and called the hotline.
As you can see, the box of cards was her most prized possession. It changed the trajectory of her life forever. To her, it meant that someone, somewhere, cared about her, and that meant everything to her.
How did you get involved with this mission to fight human sex trafficking? Why is it so important to you?
It was 2012, and I found myself in the middle of Pattaya. And what I saw broke my heart. Like the day I walked along a beach in Pattaya and witnessed a retiree-aged man sitting by the water’s edge, doing unspeakably disgusting things to a little girl — a girl who looked no older than five years’ old — as another man filmed the abuse in plain sight.
Sadly, this was just one of many instances of exploitation that I witnessed.
There was the night that I sat eating dinner at a restaurant, as a sex tourist laughed jovially from a booth beside me, touching and stroking an underage girl’s arm. As an Asian woman myself, it broke my heart. It also brought back memories of the abuse I had suffered as a girl. What’s going to happen to her after this meal? I thought to myself. What is going to be done to her tonight, and the night after that — until someone steps in and offers her an alternative life? Though I was powerless in that moment to do anything, it lit a fire inside of me to find a way to stop this from happening to others.
Then, there was the night where I woke to the sounds of screams echoing through our hotel; the words ‘Tolong! Tolong! (Help! Help!) being repeated over and over.
I’ll never forget the despair and terror I felt as I looked through the peephole of my front door, and saw a young girl being dragged down the corridor by two large men. Heart racing, I felt myself wanting to burst through the door and help, but I also knew that if I did, there was a high chance they would take me as well. This was a well known trafficking spot in Malaysia, and the risks were high. Police corruption was so rife that we couldn’t even call the police.
That night, as I stood on the other side of the door completely helpless, a thought wormed its way into my mind.
This is just one floor, in one hotel, in one red light district. What is happening on the other floors? What about other hotels and buildings across the world?
I could not unsee what I saw and told myself that I had to do something about it. No child, woman and man should have to live this way.
Which are the different ways people can support you in fighting sex trafficking?
Generation 414 addresses the issue of sex trafficking by partnering with NGOs on the ground to help provide women with dignified alternative employment through the sale of their handmade products.
We also offer counselling, survivor centered strength based recovery during their stay in the safe homes through our partners. Educational support and skills training opportunities are accessible to the women while we provide jobs that give them a secure and a sustainable income.
As you can see, this model allows the women to know that they have value, purpose and worth. By empowering the ladies, we can help combat trafficking, increase real choices for women and importantly improve the wealth and health of our societies. The more products we are able to sell, the more ladies we will be able to employ and keep out of trafficking.
Raise your voice, to use your influence, to speak for freedom and injustice. Jump online and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about the issue of human trafficking. Together we can be the generation that will be the change we wish to see in our world!
In what way is your organization or one of your partners helping the children that are being sex trafficked?
One of our partners provides a safe haven for girls aged 5 – 16 years of age who have survived trafficking, rape, prostitution, sexual exploitation, or are at risk in Cambodia. The high security home is where girls may find healing, wholeness, support, love, and reclaim a sense of childlike innocence.
Local Cambodian women are running the loving and nurturing home for these young survivors of sexual exploitation. Most of the staff are mothers themselves that provide support so these girls can start their healing journey in a place of security.
Schools in Cambodia only run classes for half a day.
At the safe haven, they have a school classroom where extra education is provided. This helps to supplement what they are learning at their private school. As well as continuing Khmer literacy, English and computer lessons are provided for all of the girls. For extra curricular and leisure activities, the girls have music, dance, art and access to sewing machines.
Each girl has a social worker and counsellor.
Counselling is an important part of each of the girl’s healing in breaking the shame associated with her abuse. It provides healthy coping skills for the trauma she experienced. Her social worker’s role is primarily to work towards safe reintegration options. Supervised family visits are an integral part of a girl’s emotional well being and regular phone calls home.
There is a large front yard where the girls love to ride their bikes, play games and hold many loud and hilarious games of volleyball. At the rear of the property is a large covered dining area. There the girls help the House Mothers prepare meals and enjoy the community of eating together, which is an important part of Khmer culture.
Whenever possible, social workers work closely with families to help equip them to be able to receive their daughter back into their care. A large part of work is finding ways to elevate the poverty that often led to a girl being exploited.
Family support has also involved building and repairing houses, helping communities access clean water, gifting food to families, and educating communities. Once of the biggest concerns that girls identified was going home to a place with no bathroom. They had real fears of having to wander to a remote place in a forest or field to relieve themselves and being attacked while they were alone.
As you can see, building a bathroom in their home provides way more that just good hygiene – it provides safety and peace of mind for a girl who has already experienced the trauma of a sexual attack. The aim of the work we do is to always be able to reintegrate a girl into a safe, supportive, and stable family and community.
How important is it for people to stop ignoring what is wrong (such as what you had to witness) and start speaking up for what is right (such as helping these children and women to escape the horror of sex trafficking)?
It is very important. Human trafficking is an issue that many people feel scared to talk about. And I understand that it’s not comfortable. But I believe that we all have the ability to create change. People often ask me: “What could someone like me do to make a difference in the world? How could I possibly do anything that creates global change?”
My answer is this: With 46.8 million still trapped in modern day slavery, helping one person might not change the world but it could change the world for one person. By helping one person feel that they are special and loved, have purpose, value and worth, we are changing the world for one individual at a time. It is important to be committed to changing the world, one woman, one child at a time.
Start by speaking up and speaking out. People will come along and try to shut you down, but you have to keep believing in what you are doing and keep pressing on. It’s going to take a lot of perseverance and hard work but never grow weary of doing good. We have to be the change we wish to see in our world.
Moreover, we need to create a culture where people no longer stay silent about the abuse and exploitation of human beings. For if this is tolerated in our communities, it is easy for traffickers to see bodies as commodities and for this injustice to continue. My aspiration is for more people to be aware of this social injustice. For people to know that trafficking happens everywhere, even in our own backyard and do something about it.
What are small things that people can do to demonstrate moral courage when it comes to human sex trafficking?
We need to hold our governments accountable. Why? Because governments will make this more a priority and develop stronger policies and legislations to address this issue. In turn, it is crucial for us to push for more prosecutions and stronger penalties for people who engage in child sex tourism. We need to create a world in which everyone, men, women and children are free, are safe and have a chance to flourish and prosper.
My hope is that we will be a generation that acts against the injustice of the world. And that we will be the voice for those whose voices are trapped in the shadows. I hope that we can be a generation that will raise our voices for what is right and what is just.
Not all of us can do great things but we ALL can do small things with great love.
If you are
- a lawyer, do some pro-bono work;
- a doctor or a nurse, go on a medical mission.
- an accountant, volunteer to do some bookkeeping work for a local NGO.
- a cook, chef or food enthusiast, go help up in the community soup kitchen.
The list goes on, you get the idea.
In conclusion, use what is in your hands to lead a purpose driven life. We, on our own, may not be able to change the world. But we can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. If we all do our little part, never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Join me in helping to make a positive difference in the world today.
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If you have a problem speaking up, show up boldly, or trust yourself or you just want to understand how to be more confident, especially in tough situations, contact me for a free chat so we can find a solution together.