The Power of Survivor Voices on Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Kate speaking at NJ HT RallyOn a cold and rainy Friday, legislators, community organizations, government officials, social service agencies, and concerned citizens convened on the front steps of the State House in Trenton, N.J., on January 11th , National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Armed with hats, scarves and umbrellas, gatherers huddled together in a display of public solidarity to draw attention to this latent and thriving crime. State and federal legislators alike, including Assemblywoman Valerie Vanieri-Huttle and Congressman Chris Smith, spoke about the importance of advancing legislation that will not only obstruct the evolving tactics used by perpetrators, but also ensure that victims and survivors are receiving the proper protections.

Leading up to the event, Polaris Project asked the survivors we serve if there was anything they wanted the public to know about trafficking on this particular day. One survivor, Sandra, wanted the public to know that human trafficking dehumanizes you. “It makes you scared and neglected,” she said. She urged the public to know that there are victims, even if you cannot see them or help them. Sandra came to the United States under the false pretense that she would be attending school. Instead, she was forced into a life of domestic servitude where she endured mental and physical abuse. After connecting with Polaris Project through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (1-888-373-7888), Sandra is an extremely positive individual. What makes her so happy? The simple fact that she is able to eat, drink, and go to school on her own accord.

Luisa, who was forced into commercial sex by a trafficker who she thought was her boyfriend, also wanted to share a few thoughts. Luisa was physically abused and threatened in a foreign country where she did not speak the language or understand the culture. She connected with Polaris Project and began receiving supportive services. A lover of dancing, Luisa wanted other victims to know, “Remember you are not alone. You are not alone.” Luisa asked the public to help expose traffickers and hold them accountable for their crimes.

As a child who grew up in an abusive home and subsequently became homeless, Rachel was particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. After courageously escaping her violent pimp, Rachel received services from Polaris Project’s New Jersey office. What does she want you to know about human trafficking? She wants you to know that the crime will not go away on its own. That we can stop this issue if we all come together to fight like we do for other causes. She urged the public to become proactive rather than wait until someone they know falls prey to the crime. “Be a true American Idol by contributing to our efforts to end trafficking,” Rachel said.

The Program Coordinator of Polaris Project’s New Jersey’s office, Kate Keisel, shared these words and more at the rally. In doing so, Kate was able to bring Sandra, Rachel and Luisa’s real voices to the audience, and prove that this victimization is occurring in New Jersey. One simply cannot speak about human trafficking without acknowledging the courageous and resilient men, women, and children who have been victimized by human trafficking. Their voices remind us of how important proactive efforts and supportive services can be and help to rally more supporters to take action and refuse to allow these crimes to continue.

Dear Mr. President (4/4 Letters from Survivors of Human Trafficking for Inauguration Day)

Para El presidente obama,

Estas cortas lineas que escribo son con tode respeto y esperando que pueda llegar a sus manos y pueda leerla.

yo en lo personal estoy muy agradecida con esta organizacion que me apoya y siga creciendo mas. Polaris Project me ayudado mucho, me an brindado seguridad y muchos mas apoyos. La mentablemente de donde yo soy, no temenos este apoyo como el que me estandando.

-e agreadesco que nos tome en cuenta y nos ase sentir que un Rincon de Este Pais le importamos a alguien.

Me despido con un sincere saludo y muchas gracias.

Y mis agradecimientos para: POLARIS PROJECT…

Translation:

To President Obama,

I write these few short lines with all respect and hope that this is able to reach you and that you are able to read them. Personally, I am very grateful with this organization for the support and I hope it continues to grow. Polaris Project has helped me a lot and has brought me safety and much support. Unfortunately, where I am from, we don’t have this type of support I am receiving here.

I thank you for taking us into account and making us feel that we matter to someone out there in a small corner of this country. A sincere farewell and a thank you to you. And my gratitude to Polaris Project.

These letters were part of a series clients we serve wrote to the President after his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. We’ve removed our clients’ names for their privacy and safety.

Dear Mr. President (3/4 Letters from Survivors of Human Trafficking for Inauguration Day)

estimado presidente de la nacion

Mr. Obama.

Le agradezco em nombre de todas las victimas que pasamos por el oscuro tunel de degradacion y maltrato a maestro cuerpo, Que usted como president se preocupe de Nuestro Bienestar.

Le Imploro Sr president nos de la oportunidad de podor demonstrarle a Nuestra Sociedad que, no somos gente Inutil y que necesitamos sentirnos, mujeres de progreso y lealtad a este pais.

Muchas Hemos venido sabiendo y todos los paises del Mundo lo dice, America es El Pais de las Oportunidades. Muchas gracias mis Hijos tambien se lo agradecen, Qeseo Sor Madre ejemplo para mis 4 hijos y de los demas Hijos de las Mujeres como Nosotros que pasamos trafico Humano.

Translation:

Dear President of the nation Mr. Obama,

I thank you on behalf of all the victims that been through the dark tunnel of the degradation and mistreatment of our bodies, for you, as the President being concerned about our well-being.

I beg you Mr. President to give us an opportunity to show our society that we are not useless people and that we need to feel like women of progress and loyalty to this country.

A lot of us came here, knowing as all other countries say, that America is the country of opportunities. Thank you very much and my children also thank you. I wish to be an example for my children and to other women’s children like us that have been trafficked.

Sincerely,

These letters were part of a series clients we serve wrote to the President after his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. We’ve removed our clients’ names for their privacy and safety.

Dear Mr. President (2/4 Letters from Survivors of Human Trafficking for Inauguration Day)

Dear President Obama

I am 20 years old and have been a slave for 2 years but I thank God for helping me to escape from where I was. I was brought in USA to go to school but when I came here it became a nightmare & I starting working without pay, bitten, abused physically and mentally but the day I was expecting to be dead that’s when God made me a way to escape where I was bleeding, crying, not knowing what happening and Polaris Project found me and keep me safe

I belive I am the eye of my family because every body there their hope is in me but they don’t know what’s going on with me.

I thank you for thinking about people like me and those who are worse than me.

May God keep you and show you many ways to help us!!!!

Thanks so much & I am proud to be in America

These letters were part of a series clients we serve wrote to the President after his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. We’ve removed our clients’ names for their privacy and safety.