We all face our own conceived imprisonment at one point or another in our lives – whether it be a hard time we stumble upon, a tough condition we are placed in, or a struggle that seems impossible, forever and unbearable. It can take the form of a financial hardship, an unbearable illness, the loss of a dear love, or even a really hard goal that we think we will never achieve. For each individual person, there are individual chains. Whatever our imprisonment is, our reach for freedom and triumph becomes a singular vision at the end of the tunnel. Escape and survival can take any form at any cost and once we reach it, we vow never to return.
Sexual slavery is unfortunately an imprisonment that is all too real in our world. When a person is held against their will and forced into prostitution, they are a sex slave. Their life and their body are no longer considered to be their own. In Southeast Asia alone, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime recorded more than 10,000 cases of human trafficking in a 2012 report. This number, while very high, cannot be considered as sound data as many countries in the region cannot agree on what human trafficking even is or how to combat the issue. This means that the actual number of victims could be much, much higher.
The targets of this horrific crime tend to be those from poor families who seemingly lack future opportunities and are sometimes sold to pay off a family debt. While they are sold and bought like a material item, the treatment they receive does not compare to our treatment of things. They face cruelty of many kinds, including sexual, physical, mental, and physiological abuse. Their chains are real and seem impossible to break free from.
As we forge relationships in life, we tend to be drawn to each other’s stories and incredible personal experiences. We all seek interesting people. The memoir industry thrives off of this point. Sometimes it is our own stories of imprisonment that serve as strong plot points we can connect to others with in some way. For Somaly Mam, her personal story of impoverished and marginal beginnings in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia would seem tough enough. However, it is her story of being sold into sexual slavery at a young age and finding an escape that connects her with thousands of women and girls across the world.
After enduring and escaping horrific torture and even witnessing the murder of her friend, Somaly did what most swear to never do – she returned and came back to Southeast Asia with a mission. The Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF), which she founded in 2007, seeks to eradicate sex slavery and empower survivors on finding their voice, finding economic independence, and finding their freedom. SMF’s multi-point approach ensures that these women have an opportunity to forge a new story – a story of success, independence and hope. By supporting organizations and partners in Southeast Asia in rescuing these women and children, Somaly estimates that her and her team have helped rescue over 7,000 survivors.
The week of October 28th every person who shopped for a cause and made a purchase with Sevenly helped to make this extraordinary number even higher. Stand up with Sevenly to help break the chains and free these women and girls from their very real imprisonment and find their new story of freedom.