I HAVE A VOICE: Trafficked Women in Their Own Words
A ground-breaking book, focussing on the lives of 40 trafficked women in the Philippines and the sinister and structural oppression of young women on which the sex trade thrives has been launched. The book, by Sister of Mercy Angela Reed PhD, overturns the popular and sensationalised image of trafficking as a one-off event involving kidnapping and chains. The book, I HAVE A VOICE: Trafficked Women in Their Own Words, is expected to inform the anti-trafficking movement worldwide.
The book is edited by Sr Angela and Marietta Latonio with illustrations by Sr Marie Pegar SFX. For seven years Sr Angela and Marietta worked with the 40 Filipino women who had been trafficked for sexual exploitation in the Filipino province of Cebu. The women’s stories, told in their own words, reveal that the women, rather than being subjected to random acts of victimisation, were subjected to a slow process of victimisation beginning in early childhood; experiences that made them easy prey to traffickers.
“Sex trafficking is a very complex global problem and there is no one homogenous sex trafficking experience and those trying to combat trafficking need to understand the complexities involved in order to better serve the trafficked person,” she said.
Sr Angela, a long-time member of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans), said for too long sex trafficking has been attributed to poverty alone. However, trafficking is more complicated and whilst the cause is demand for sex services, traffickers prey on those who have myriad vulnerabilities, which can include childhood abuse, social isolation, lack of education and specific ‘local’ factors. Tragically, for many women, sex trafficking is part of a lifelong continuum of violence that begins when they are young girls, some as young as three.
“Once we have a better understanding of sex trafficking, we can develop better responses, allocate aid and other resources more effectively and advocate in a more focussed way,” Angela said.
“There has been little research done that involves qualitative, in-depth interviews with trafficked women. Some quantitative research is being done, though that is very difficult because sex trafficking is an illicit trade. It is more important that we understand the nature of trafficking and its causes if we are to respond effectively.”
More than two thirds of the women interviewed by Angela had suffered sexual abuse from a young age. She said this challenged and even dispelled the common view that sex trafficking is a one-off event, or that young girls are snatched from their villages and safe communities and sold, or forced into sex work.