The inclusion of survivors in the anti-trafficking movement is critical to ending sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Victims’ experiences illustrate that trafficking and exploitation is a gender-based human rights violation operating on a massive global scale; their perspectives must shape and influence effective global anti-trafficking and gender equality policies and legislation.
Survivor Stories was launched to coincide with the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (March 2013), where the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls was discussed. The campaign features 18 first hand narratives from survivors of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation from 12 countries around the world. The campaign provides a forum for survivors to shape the conversation and be a part of the solution, and provides readers with related actions they can take to support the anti-trafficking and exploitation movement.
Equality Now, in partnership with survivors and grassroots organizations, has been combatting sex trafficking and exploitation for more than 20 years. We are committed to reducing the demand for commercial sex by advancing policies that criminalize buyers of sex, while decriminalizing those who are sold for sex and providing them with support services. This approach, the Nordic Model, has been proven effective in curbing sex trafficking and is gaining policy consideration by governments around the world.
All stories have been edited for length and clarity and certain stories were translated from the survivor’s original language. Where applicable, pseudonyms have been used to protect the survivor’s privacy.
Partners & Countries
AFESIP Cambodia works to care for and secure the rights of those victimized by human trafficking and sex slavery and to successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate survivors into mainstream society through financial independence, in a sustainable and innovative manner. They also combat the causes and consequences of trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation through outreach work in HIV/ AIDS prevention, advocacy work, campaigning, and representation and participation in women’s issues at national, regional and international forums.
Apne Aap, India
Apne Aap was founded in 2002 by 22 women from Mumbai’s red light district who envisioned a world where no woman could be bought or sold. Through their community centers and self-empowerment groups across the country, women and girls can safely gather, access education, improve their livelihood options and receive legal rights training. Apne Aap helps marginalized women and girls work collectively to lift themselves out of the sex industry and to advocate for policy change to stem the demand for purchased sex.
Buklod Center was established in 1987 as a drop-in center for prostituted and trafficked women outside the former U.S. Subic Naval Base in Olongapo. Buklod has Organizing, Education, Livelihood and Advocacy Networking programs for prostituted women.
ChildVoice International, Uganda
ChildVoice International is a non-profit organization seeking to restore the voices of children silenced by war by raising awareness, promoting research, and facilitating effective, sustainable interventions. ChildVoice operates a comprehensive program in Northern Uganda, including a rehabilitation center for formerly abducted girls and their children, a primary school and a health center.
EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating) is a volunteer, non-governmental, non-profit organization founded in 2009. The organization is composed of former sex-industry women dedicated to seeing prostitution recognized as violence against women and calling for its abolition through political action, advocacy, and awareness raising that focuses on ending the demand for paid sexual access to women and children's bodies. EVE operates under a feminist model, acknowledging that prostitution is born out of sexism, classism, racism, poverty and other forms of systemic oppression.
Freedom from Sexual Exploitation, New Zealand
Founded in 2012, Freedom from Sexual Exploitation is a group of New Zealanders committed to seeing change in the areas of prostitution and the trafficking of women and children for sex in New Zealand.
The organization petitions parliament to follow the Nordic Model (also known as the Swedish Model), and carries out awareness-raising, advocacy and campaigning work, together with women currently and formerly in prostitution.
Gateways is a Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA) intensive residential treatment program for girls who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Gateways uses a strengths-based youth development model to help them recognize their trauma, rebuild their self-esteem and assist them in gaining the skills needed to return to the community as productive, independent young adults.
The Klaipeda Social and Psychological Services Center has preventive, rehabilitation and reintegration programs for victims of trafficking, domestic violence and sexual exploitation. They also provide shelter, a hotline and other support services.
The New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition is a group of organizations that have joined forces to increase public awareness of human trafficking in our communities, enact anti-trafficking laws, improve law enforcement response and increase social services to help women and girls escape trafficking. New York is a leading entry, transit and destination point for trafficking victims. The New York Anti-Trafficking Coalition helped drive the passage of two momentous laws in New York State: The New York Anti-Trafficking Law and the Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act
Project Respect, Australia
Project Respect is an Australian non-profit, feminist, community-based organization that works to empower and support women in the sex industry, including women trafficked to Australia. It is made up of a diverse team who believe that all women matter, and includes women who have been, or still are involved in the sex industry, in positions throughout the organization.
Beginning in 1998, Project Respect has offered specialist, non-judgmental outreach and individual support to women in the sex industry across the state of Victoria. Project Respect provides women with intensive case management, emergency accommodation, and support for education and alternative employment opportunities. In addition to providing direct services, Project Respect engages in advocacy and public education efforts, and collaborates closely with partners in countries where many women are trafficked from, particularly in the Asia Pacific region. It offers training to health care workers, women's groups, law enforcement and others who may come into contact with women in the sex industry and trafficking victims.
Rebecca is a survivor-activist, blogger and campaigner. She was exploited in the prostitution industry in the UK for 13 years and now campaigns to help protect other women and girls from experiencing the trauma she herself suffered. She posts regularly on her widely-read blog, Exited Woman’s Exploration, and is a founding member of Sex Trafficking Survivors United (STSU), an international survivor-led organization made up of women and men who have experienced sexual exploitation. STSU has more than 177 members worldwide and campaigns for the Nordic Model, which criminalizes the demand side of prostitution while decriminalizing and providing support for people in prostitution.
Stigamot is an NGO run by a collective of women, some of whom are survivors of gender-based violence. Stigamot advocates for women’s rights and for victims of sexual violence, and provides counseling and support to victim of sexual and physical violence.
Stop Demand, New Zealand
Stop Demand was founded in New Zealand in 2003 to identify, challenge and seek a shift in the attitudes and beliefs that underpin and sustain all forms of sexual violence, sexual exploitation and sexual denigration of women and children.
With regard to the sex trade (prostitution, pornography, sex trafficking), Stop Demand focuses on the male demand that drives the global supply of women and children and encourages governments to combat the harms within prostitution by adopting the Nordic Model.
SOLWODI, Kenya, Germany, Romania & Austria
SOLidarity with WOmen in DIstress (SOLWODI) was founded in 1985 by Sister Doctor Lea Ackerman. The non-partisan and non-denominational association helps women and girls in Kenya, Germany, Romania and Austria who are victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, sexual violence, domestic violence and/or forced marriage, and supports a project in Rwanda helping widows and orphans. Through its network of counseling centers and organizations, SOLWODI provides holistic psychosocial care and counseling, shelter, legal intervention and medical assistance, integration assistance as well as support in returning foreign women and girls to their home countries.
Equality Now would like to thank all our partners for their time and participation in the Survivors Stories campaign, Suzanna Finley for the use of her photography, and Deena Guzder for her editorial assistance.
Funding for this campaign generously provided by:
The Book Club—based in Los Angeles, this club of seven women is dedicated to creating a kinder more equitable world.
Chime for Change—a global campaign, founded by Gucci, to "promote Education, Health and Justice for every girl, every woman, everywhere," through the raising of funds and awareness for girls' and women's empowerment.
Catapult—a crowdfunding platform dedicated to equality.