Written by Dr. Dana Hunter, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office Children’s Cabinet
with an excerpt from a Human Trafficking Survivor (D.F.).
Human sex and labor trafficking are dark crimes that continues to plague our country. Each day in the United States and across the globe, a beautiful young child, a young woman or a young man, or even an older woman becomes a victim of sex or labor trafficking. These victims often suffer emotional and physical harm as they perform duties that they often never imagined having to perform for the financial benefit of someone else. The question is frequently asked, why don’t these victims just leave? The answer to that question is very complex. Survivors have often told real-life stories of the threats of harm and violence threatened to come them or their close loved ones if they so much as think of leaving. Now for some readers, it may be easy to skim over that and take lightly. But for a victim who is daily taking the punishment while seeing other victims drugged with sedatives and even seeing some victims murdered, receiving those threats is no small thing. Threats of harm and punishment for survivors range from beatings with guns, pipes, wooden boards, and other objects that often leave them with broken bones, fractured ribs, missing teeth, and ruptures in other parts of their bodies. Exploiters will threaten to kill one or more of their young children, siblings, or family members if they even think of leaving. After many demonstrations of violence to instill fear in the victims, they view those threats as very real and often choose to stay “in the life” for their safety or the safety of their family. Over the last several years, I have listened to harrowing stories of torture experienced by survivors and their struggle to press past the mental, physical, and emotional trauma experienced by ruthless criminals. I have also seen their incredible resiliency and strength as they find innovative ways to create new norms. As we collectively move forward as a state, we must engage the voices of these resilient individuals and provide them with a safe space to share their stories and give voice to solutions.
Engaging survivors in this fight to eradicate Human Trafficking is KEY. In June 2020, our State, under the leadership of Governor John Bel Edwards, launched the Louisiana Survivor Advisory Council (La SAC). The La SAC consists of 4 survivor leaders who provide expert advice and consulting on critical statewide anti-human trafficking initiatives such as the Louisiana Child and Youth Trafficking Collaborative (LCYTC). Although it’s a relatively new body, this team of eager and enthusiastic leaders has already made significant headway by helping shape statewide anti-trafficking efforts and assisting in developing statewide standardized human trafficking training materials. The passion and feedback from survivors on program activities and policy development are priceless and has already added value to statewide efforts to improve outcomes for child and youth victims of human trafficking.
A member of the Louisiana Survivor Advisory Council quoted, “Raising awareness about human sex trafficking is something of which I am very passionate. Being a part of this victim-centered LCYTC project and La Survivor council means that I get to do just that raise awareness and be a voice in hopes of saving someone else’s life. The subject of human trafficking isn’t talked about enough. It’s real, and it’s happening in our faces and under our noses daily. I want to be a voice for those who can’t be a voice for themselves. I believe that I’m here today because someone was a voice for me. It all starts with one voice. Speak up and speak out. I am honored to be able to do my part to help stop human trafficking. I’ve lived it, and now my voice matters. Thank you, Louisiana, for addressing this issue, and thank you, Governor Edwards and First Lady Edwards, for your support.”
If you suspect that someone is a victim of human sex or labor trafficking, please say something.
Call the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888 or *Text “BeFree” to 233733