From CSPAN: Human Trafficking Survivors Testify on Protection Proposal
Gina Cavallo, Survivor Consultant with the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking testified at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee. Part of her closing remarks:
"There are many young people that need safe people to talk to about trafficking and other forms of abuse. It is essential that children are made aware of what trafficking looks like, and the valuable information to empower them and keep them safe while ensuring that all information they received is trauma and survivor informed."
"It is essential that survivors are included in all aspects of the work to prevent trafficking, including education, law enforcement response, health care and someone. Survivors need to be at the table. Engaged from the beginning to the end, and compensated in doing so."
From CSPAN: A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee heard from human trafficking survivors and advocates, whose testimonies were considered amid continued implementation of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). The subcommittee’s chair, Chris Smith (R-NJ), authored the legislation, which aims to protect victims of sex and labor trafficking as well as prevent and prosecute such crimes. Witnesses included Colorado Judge Robert Lung, who was a victim of sex trafficking when he was a boy. Moreover, Martina Vandenberg, president of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, gave policy recommendations for reauthorization of the TVPA, such as sanctioning government officials who engage in trafficking, and illustrated an example of a case involving a Malawian diplomat.
To watch the hearing,
click here or copy and paste the URL: https://www.c-span.org/video/?528051-1/human-trafficking-survivors-testify-protection-proposal
"Good morning. First, I want to thank god for bringing me here today. For me, I am one of the miracles. For many, I am choosing to share and give you a little bit more of a snapshot of my back on because it did not start with trafficking. There is always layers upon layers. And hope lee, if this can help continue to support your efforts then it is worth it. Also, to be a voice for those who are still silent and living in fear."
The full transcript of Gina's portion, auto-generated by CSPAN:
Good morning. First, I want to thank god for bringing me here today. For me, I am one of the miracles. For many, I am choosing to share and give you a little bit more of a snapshot of my back on because it did not start with trafficking. There is always layers upon layers. And hope lee, if this can help continue to support your efforts then it is worth it. Also, to be a voice for those who are still silent and living in fear.
Thank you for inviting me here today from new jersey to speak about my own lived experience. As a subject matter expert on human trafficking. It is so critical that survivors are heard. I would like to commend you all for inviting me to the table and listening to what I have to say. I am a survivor of domestic violence and childhood abuse. Though experience led me to a place where I felt ashamed, unloved, and rejected. It led me to being trafficked.
School was an extension of my home. I struggled with learning disabilities as well as other disabilities. The only thing I succeeded at was being the funniest. Because I use laughter to hide my pain it. It was important for me to feel accepted and loved by my family. That need was incredibly strong. I was never able to obtain their love or approval. That was my vulnerability and weakness. That led me into the hands of the wrong people.
Coercion and force were all used by people who pretended to be my friend. Ultimately, abduct me into being trafficked. From the age of 18, I was prostituted and sold to the highest bidder and raped over and over. My identity was taken as I was given a new name, deprivation, threats of violence, pornography, drugs, and food were all used as punishment and reward. Taking psychological control over me.
Does this sound like anything a young person dreams of their future? Of having this kind of life, being stripped and robbed of your mind and your wrist act and humanity? I became a commodity to be used. I often blamed myself for my situation because I believed it was my fault. Because of the complex nature of this crime, traffickers freak only operate under the radar.
Those being trafficked don't always identify as victims. Traffickers maintain power and control with physical and psychological as a victim, I was taught by my traffickers to distrust family, friends and law enforcement. The more they isolated, the more fear I felt, and the more control they gained. Which is very intentional. They instilled in me a strong distrust of the police. I was afraid of being arrested, which happened several times. In one case, I was raped by an officer and released back to my traffickers.
Had there been a national hotline number at the time, I would've had a safe place to call that wasn't law enforcement. Thankfully today we have a national hotline number which allows victims to feel safe and access services, and it is done through a trauma informed manner. My traffickers moved around a lot, so they wouldn't get caught.
Because of my forced addictions, many times I would not know where I was in the country, or when I was moved into Canada. Traffickers are also women. In my case, when I thought I knew the, it was three men and one woman who trafficked me. They were also using false identities to protect themselves. Have learned this is quite common.
Many traffickers are not who they usually say they are. Making it difficult to prosecute them. It took decades for me to identify that I was a victim of the violence, of child abuse, and sex trafficking. I had learned through counseling that what happened to me was not my fault. And I realized I have been protecting those who were violating me. As a victim, I was left with a lifetime sentence, ruined relationships, addictions, hospital visits, suicide attempt, shame and fear.
I learned that if you do not heal what hurt you, you will lead on others who do -- who did not cut you. The effects of being stripped of my humanity left me with trauma and mental health issues. I was left with criminal records and further mental anxiety. We need to expose buyers and sellers. They must be accountable. For that we need to strengthen our laws, improve education on all levels, and name and shame the buyers and sellers, not the victims.
I am hoping those who seek to end exploitation and abuse learn they need to be a safe person and understand what that means. It is something we can all become. Someone who holds back judgment and instead offers food, a blanket, and emotional support, treating individuals with dignity and respect. What you can do as lawmakers is and sure that in every aspect of your work to end trafficking, you put forward measures mandating widespread survivor informed and trauma informed training.
This has to become the norm, it is the only way to bring light to this inhumane crime, awareness to our communities, and expose the criminals. We need to create a safer country where people can come forward without stigma to reveal their experiences. No one should feel double victimized. No one should feel the double victimization of being trafficked as well as feeling they have to stay silent because of shame, fear and not feeling safe.
It wasn't until 2015 that I found my voice, my truth and my freedom. I am working to get the criminal records I was left with expunged. One down, one to go. Today when I go into schools throughout new jersey and the united states, students are engaged and eager to talk. As are their parents. Students and families always want us to come back.
There are many young people that need safe people to talk to about trafficking and other forms of abuse. It is essential that children are made aware of what trafficking looks like, and the valuable information to empower them and keep them safe while ensuring that all information they received is trauma and survivor informed.
This is the bridge of all voices, the survivors and non-survivors. We need to collaborate to continue to make this work. I couldn't do what I am doing without the amazing leaders and advocates I walk alongside with today. I am deeply grateful to my colleagues at the new jersey coalition against human trafficking, the new jersey chapter of the American academy of pediatrics task force and all those on the new jersey commission on human trafficking, which I am honored to serve. I am grateful to congressman Chris smith, who has a lead this fight against trafficking for so long, ensuring there is funding and other provisions to protect, prosecute and educate our communities and a survivor informed way.
That is why I am pleased to be here today. You are making such a difference. Human trafficking comes in so many forms. It discriminates against no one. Countless women, men, boys and girls are trafficked every day. And they are subjected to humiliation, shame, exploitation and continued abuse.
Although I am no longer a victim, if what happened to me could make a difference to one person, it would have been worth it. I am encouraged today and filled with gratitude and hope, because you are willing to hear the. And here other survivors. It is essential that survivors are included in all aspects of the work to prevent trafficking, including education, law enforcement response, health care and someone. Survivors need to be at the table. Engaged from the beginning to the end and compensated in doing so. Thank you for listening and thank you for all you continue to do to end this horrendous crime.