Sex slaves find hope

Victims of the illicit billion dollar business find an advocate in a Cambodian woman who survived and found strength after the horrors of rape and abuse.

A 12-year-old Cambodian girl is forced to sell her body in a brothel where she is raped by men who believe having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS.

After watching her best friend murdered, Somaly Mam finds a way out. Now, after her escape, she is the face of the nonprofit organization that bears her name and seeks to end human sex trafficking.

This type of slavery is a $12 billion a year industry, making it the second highest grossing criminal enterprise in the world. Young girls living in extreme poverty in third world countries are most at risk, with many kidnapped or even sold into slavery by their own parents. About 27 million people are estimated to be working as slaves worldwide.

The Somaly Mam Foundation was created in 2007 as the U.S. extension of Mam’s AFESIP organization, which translates from French as “acting for women in distressing situations.” The partner organizations fight to rescue and rehabilitate victims, helping them lead normal lives. They educate girls and women, bring awareness of sex slavery and advocate for enforcement of laws to protect women.

After seeing Somaly Mam on the Tyra Banks show, Diana Ros, a
communication studies major at Santa Ana College, connected with Somaly’s story. Ros is also of Cambodian decent.

By researching the issue further, she believes that she could have been a victim of sex trafficking as well, had her parents not fled Cambodia before she was born.

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Ros plans to put together a fundraiser on campus by next year that will include a dance performance and speakers that educate people about sex trafficking.

The money raised will be sent to The Somaly Mam Foundation: Voices For Change, a program that gives former sex slaves an opportunity to share their stories, raise the visibility of the problem in the public’s perception and have their voices heard in courts of law.

Ros is also president of the campus club called Heart to Heart: A Somaly Mam Project.

“It is designed to educate and advocate for students and the community about human trafficking,” said Ros.

The public can get involved in other ways, too, such as donating to the nonprofit foundation Children of the Night. This group rescues boys and girls age 11 to 17 from prostitution.

To learn more about sex trafficking go to the Captive Daughters website www.captivedaughters.org.

You can also volunteer for an internship with the Somaly Mam Foundation, host a fundraiser or donate money to help provide shelter, security, HIV and medical exams, as well as psychological counseling and rehabilitation. For more information about Heart to Heart: A Somaly Mam Project, contact Diana Ros at missros2585@yahoo.com.

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