Written by: Jessica Garber – Intern at Shared Hope International
An overview of the Fifth Annual Intern Roundtable on Trafficking in Persons, hosted by U.S. State Department, to which Shared Hope International sent representation.
Monday, July 22nd, Senior Advisor to Secretary Kerry and head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca hosted the Fifth Annual Intern Roundtable on Trafficking in Persons. Representatives from organizations across the Metro area were gathered for the event, some of whom had never learned about the issue of human trafficking until that very day. The unique part of the event is that it was about far more than numbers and more than the tier-rankings that appeared in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report—it was purely about the importance of joining the effort to combat worldwide human trafficking.
Ambassador CdeBaca spoke directly to my fellow interns and I, who are working with trafficking awareness groups, saying that many professionals in this area believe that they will one day be working next to us as colleagues. However, Ambassador CdeBaca inspired the audience by declaring that we have already joined the fight as colleagues by dedicating our time and energy to this stringent issue, empowering the future professionals in this area. He proceeded to tell a story of a young woman who was being trafficked and did not speak English, and every day when her trafficker would leave she would sneak the English dictionary and write a few words down on a piece of paper. After a few weeks, those groups of written words formed a note for help, which she tossed over the fence of the residence where she was being held captive. Because of her refusal to give up and determination to communicate this issue to others, help found her note and her life was forever restored.
It is groundbreaking stories such as this one that we don’t hear when we read a statistic that states the number of victims. Special Agent David Rogers, a panelist, remarked that this number of victims is in existence and it is not going away; therefore, we should remove our focus from trying to decipher this total and focus our energy on trying harder to eliminate the issue altogether. He advocated for a victim-centered approach to become the “norm” in our society, and that these women and children are being sold are victims, and if given the chance would give anything to lead a better life. Agent Rogers also discussed how human trafficking is so unique from other crimes because the damage that is imposed upon the victims is psychological—an extreme detriment to mental health, and even brain development in child victims.
Ambassador CdeBaca concluded posing a powerful inquisition: when these victims run toward freedom and walk into their new lives, will we walk with them? That is what we need to make our life mission—speaking for those who cannot.