There are many words in our language.
Some are words that make you feel warm inside and bring tears of joy to your eyes. They turn your lover’s attention to you, save marriages and help the ones that are lost. Love. Forgiveness. Kindness.
There are other words that inspire you to move forward. These words are frequently used in political speeches and are savored by football coaches around the globe. Justice. Improvement. Victory.
And then there are words that, if said out loud, can make most people turn away, lower their voice, do anything to avoid conversation or, even leave the room entirely… “Let’s change the subject”. “This conversation is too depressing… How was your vacation?” Rape. Violence. Slavery.
It is uncomfortable to talk about these things. I know I get uncomfortable, and I see it in people’s eyes. Who wants to envision a group of men maiming a little boy so he can make more money when he goes out on the streets to beg? Or an eight-year-old girl held in a house with other little girls where they all get raped day after day? Or a mother of three, who was promised a job as a nanny abroad and thought she would finally be able to earn enough money to raise her children, but instead, is held in a house somewhere for years, starved and forced to clean and cook every day without any pay?
No one wants to think about the reality of human suffering and cruelty that people are capable of. It hurts the very soul to think about that. Hearing stories of such injustice makes me question whether or not I still want to be a part of humanity. There is no justification for anyone making children work in dangerous conditions and having them live in fear of being hurt or starved to death if they don’t do their job. There is no justification for anyone paying to have sex with a child or with an adult threatened and coerced into prostitution. I refuse to accept that there are about 30 million people currently living as “modern slaves.” This is not the world I want to live in, nor the world I want to raise my children in. There is so much injustice happening everywhere every minute. Something needs to be done. Nobody deserves to be kept a slave.
Last year, I attended a gala in New York City hosted by a nonprofit organization called UNITAS. I thought I knew about modern day slavery until I attended that event. I learned a lot more and thought, “What if that was me? What if that was my sister, daughter or friend?” How terrifying it must be to be trapped and not know what to do, who to confide in or how to get help. That night, I decided I wanted to get involved and work with UNITAS to help save lives.
Since then I’ve learned so much more, and every day I know how blessed I am to be free. Free to wake up in my home, to go to work in a safe place and be paid for my work and to live a normal life. Now I am working as a Global Ambassador with UNITAS, and if my efforts help give even one human their freedom, it will be the most rewarding thing I will ever do in my life. UNITAS is an international humanitarian organization working to provide solutions in the fight against human trafficking.
UNITAS develops and supports programs to:
PREVENT – Stop trafficking before it starts;
INTERVENE – Help victims find freedom;
SUPPORT – Opportunities for survivors to thrive.
Right now we are developing an app to help verify employment opportunities in the entertainment sector. Tragically, fraudulent job offers are a common tactic that human traffickers use to lure in aspiring models, singers, dancers, and actors. We will begin piloting this program in the US and Eastern Europe in 2017. UNITAS also partnered with the Serbian Government’s Ministry of Education and Center for Trafficking Victims Protection in a program aimed to reach nearly every teenager in Serbia by the end of 2016 (roughly 300,000) with comprehensive prevention education, teaching young people how to better protect themselves from the schemes of traffickers.
This is just the beginning of a long journey to fight human trafficking. You should know about the reality of our world and tell your friends and children about it too. Be brave and start the conversation. Don’t look away.