Group photo of participants gathered together at Talitha Kum 2nd General Assembly Group photo of participants gathered together at Talitha Kum 2nd General Assembly  (Marco Mastrandrea/Talitha Kum)

Human trafficking survivor calls for tackling problem of demand

"When people aren't buying your 'product,' it's much harder to sell," observes human trafficking survivor, Kris, who in an interview with Vatican News at the Talitha Kum General Assembly, suggests that the problem of 'demand' must be tackled in order to make progress in combating the scourge.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov 

Kris is a human trafficking survivor from a comfortable family who was naively lured off a train as a teenager and tricked into prostitution in a major US city. She is participating in the 2nd General Assembly of Talitha Kum in Sacrofano, north of Rome, offering her contribution to the joint effort to tackle the ever increasing phenomenon of human trafficking.

In an interview with Vatican News, Kris, who is now an expert on the matter and has helped others in similar situations, shared her experience and what needs to be done to bring about change.

The expert who currently serves as executive director of the Justice Project KC, a non-profit human rights organization in Kansas City, Missouri, providing advocacy, system navigation, and peer support for women and girls in poverty, is also a member of the US Department of Justice Coalition Against Human Trafficking and of the Kansas Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Advisory Board. 

Listen to the interview:

"As someone who has survived sexual exploitation and works in that field now with others who have been victimized, I really think that the broader world needs to accept and love these people unconditionally," she said, stressing, "there needs to be a change in language from victim to survivor to thriver, because when people are called victims, it changes the way they see themselves."

Men and boy victims fall under radar

She said she would like to see more "inclusivity" for other victims, "including our trans victims," who, she said, "face much hate," and "for men and boys, who sometimes fall under the radar."

People she suggested, ought to become "less judgmental," "set their biases aside," and "help others achieve justice for themselves."

Reflecting on Talitha Kum's Assembly now together with sisters from around the world dedicated to this cause, she replied to what she would like to see them work toward by the next General Assembly.

Tackling demand by education and with law enforcement

"I would like to see them address 'demand,' the buyers, because they want to address the root causes," she said, highlighting that there are a number of root causes, "but one of the main ones is that people are still willing to buy other people."

"And when people aren't buying, it's much harder to sell," she reasoned, adding. "I mean, that's your basic capitalist theory.  If you don't have buyers for your product, it's much more difficult to sell that product. That's what I would like to see."

“If you don't have buyers for your product, it's much more difficult to sell that product”

Asked how demand can be addressed, she asserted that education, especially of men and boys, about "the wrongness of this victimization," is key.

Penalties can be effective

She noted how they must be made aware "why it is wrong" and "that women and girls should not be objectified as just toys or playthings for men."

In addition, Kris reaffirmed the need to promote "equality of women at all levels, at all stages, in all countries, everywhere," working always toward greater gender equality.

"Law enforcement," in particular, Kris observed, "needs to start addressing demand," adding that where she lives they do. "But when these traffickers have a legal and a financial penalty, lots of times they pull back, and it does make a difference. We've seen that in my part of the world."

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20 May 2024, 12:37