I was human trafficked for 10 years. We can do more to stop it | Barbara Amaya | TEDxMidAtlantic

I was human trafficked for 10 years. We can do more to stop it | Barbara Amaya | TEDxMidAtlantic

Translator: Linda Anderson
Reviewer: Denise RQ A 15-year-old-girl, alone, confused, sad, addicted, and trafficked on the streets
of New York City. She hears sirens in the background,
and she knows what that means. It means “Run!” So she and all the other young women
out on the track run, but they’re not fast enough. The police come,
and they chain them all together, and take them down to the police station. And she’s kind of worried,
because she’s addicted to heroin, and she knows she can’t spend
that many minutes in the police station. She goes to the police station,
and she goes to court, and they sentence her
to Rikers Island Prison. And she’s thinking,
“I have to get out of here. I’ve heard horror stories, and I don’t want to be
in Rikers Island Prison.” So she breaks the programming that the trafficker has drilled
into her head, and she says, “I’m Barbara Amaya. I’m not 21. I’m 15-years old,
and I’m from Fairfax, Virginia. Please help me. Please find my family. I just want to go back home.” And they do. They say, “We found your family,
they’re coming to pick you up.” She feels a sense of relief. They’re coming,
they’re coming to pick me up. At the same time,
I felt so many other emotions. I was scared, I didn’t know
what I was going to say. I’d been gone for three years. They take me to the room
where my parents are going to be waiting. I open the door, and I step inside. And it’s my trafficker in the room
not my parents. And to this day, I don’t know
how that happened. I’m not sure. Do you all remember the feeling that you had
when you were in middle school, when you were 12 or 13 years old,
in 6th, 7th grade? That feeling of excitement,
wanting to belong, but yet being very, very, very vulnerable? That’s what traffickers
prey upon, vulnerability. Whether it’s a 12-year-old runaway, or a 35-year-old man trying
to find money to feed his family. The vulnerable population
is being preyed upon. That’s what it’s about. It’s not complicated. They know how to keep
that vicious cycle going. Supply and demand,
it’s about supply and demand. That’s a photo of me, 12-year-old me. The summer I turned 12, I ran away
from my Fairfax, Virginia home. And I want to repeat that. The summer I turned 12,
I ran away from home, and I went to nearby Washington, DC. I’d been being abused
and nobody would listen to me, so I ran away from home. In Dupont Circle,
a young woman approached me, and she said she wanted to help me. And she understood how I felt. And I went back with her to her apartment. And sadly, her trafficker was there. She had been out recruiting
other young, other runaways. Maybe she’d been one herself one day. One day, they took me
to the corner of 14th and I Streets, not that far from here,
in our nation’s capital, and they sold me
to a trafficker from New York. And I can remember that day
like it was yesterday. My memory’s pretty messed up
from some of the stuff I’ve been through, but I can remember that day. I remember the money exchanging hands. And I remember him
driving me up to New York. And I remember him
taking things up a notch. You know, really, he programmed me,
and I use that word on purpose. He programmed my young mind. He knew exactly how to create
a commodity out of a human being. He knew how to create a trauma bond. I always get asked,
“Why didn’t you just leave? How could that be possible?” I bonded with the trafficker. He knew how to create that bond. I never had my first dance. I never had my first innocent kiss. I never went to high school, because I was
12-years-old when I left home. But I did have an 85-year-old
man die on top of me when I was 16 years old,
being trafficked in New York. I became heavily addicted to heroin. And heroin saved my life. It numbed me to the existence
that I was surviving. I don’t want to say I was living, because I was merely surviving
all those years, over a decade, from 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 19, 20, 21, 22, over a decade. And then one day, I escaped New York. I wish I could say it was
really that easy, but it wasn’t. It was a lot longer than that,
but I don’t have a lot of time out here. So, one day I escaped New York. In 2013, I returned to vacate
the criminal records I’d gotten, even though I was a victim. Those are my real criminal records,
with all my aliases and docket numbers. They don’t just go away,
they’re still there. One point I really want
to get across here is that in every state
in the United States, there are laws that say
you can’t have sex with a child, and if you do, you’re going to jail. But if money is involved,
if there’s money on the table, that child is criminalized, not the person that tried to rape her. I don’t understand that. I never told anybody
what happened to me in New York. I had the deep shame. My dog, Scooby, was my best, best friend. I really can’t say
that I like the human race too much. I kept everything inside until 2012. I had an epiphany as I watched
a newscast in my living room, about trafficked teens
in my neighborhood of northern Virginia. And I thought,
“That’s what happened to me. That’s the same thing that happened to me,
and it’s still happening today.” Today, I’ve taken my life back. (Applause) So, I’ve taken my life back, I’ve advocated for legislation,
help get legislation passed. I have been to the White House. And I have helped get the Safe Harbor Bill
passed here in Washington, DC. And I know some of you may be thinking,
“That would never happen to me. And it certainly
wouldn’t happen to my family.” And I pray that it doesn’t. But I’m here to tell you, human trafficking does happen
in the United States. It really does. I don’t quote statistics, because I think
they’re all over the place. But would it really matter if it was one billion children
exploited or one? It would still matter, wouldn’t it? Do the numbers matter? That child you see out on the street,
or online today, is not there by choice. Sometimes, what we see
is not what it is at all, you know. I know one person can make a difference. Because when I speak across the country, I have young victims of human trafficking talking to me,
and telling me their stories. So, I believe we can
all make a difference. Thank you. (Applause)

66 thoughts on “I was human trafficked for 10 years. We can do more to stop it | Barbara Amaya | TEDxMidAtlantic

  1. Hi,
    Not many people can touch my soul but this lady has…. not many people can open my mind but this lady has.. I have a story. I was alone living in Atlanta renting a room with private half bath and working about 60 hours a week in a salon. I could not find "fun" in my life just stress. I met this American white guy who was breaking up with girlfriend and moving to New York. He told me to come along for a weekend visit. The truth was he was a human trafficking guy and you would have never known. He told me he sells art at the auctions. He really sells women to the highest bidders. He would get them caught up even drugged out and put them in the trafficking. I did not know this until AFTeR he left to New York. I was told that he would never speak to me again if I did not go and I started to see a different side of him atHANK GOD because the idea of going was like dreamy and I don't even like New YORk and I have never been and have no desire to go ever!!! If I would have went that day my life as I knew it would of been no more.. I spoke to him one more time once he got to New York (what I was told) and he was a COMPLETELY different person in the conversation. I hope America can help to look out for each other. Also they like to hang out a follow women in store like TJMacx and try to kidnap women cause I witnessed this before in the daylight time. I understand why women use those child leashes on their children in public more than I ever have.

  2. I wondered why kids didn't run away when in abused homes. I Thought it'd be pretty easy and thought life could only get better if you left that situation…. Little did I know that life could actually, seriously get much worse. I'm so, so sorry.

  3. I agree that human trafficking is still a huge problem, but I feel like there has been progress made. Like the virtual girl Sweetie who is programmed to lure in child predators and stop child ex predators and child trafficking.

  4. Makes me want to cry, she is much stronger than we all know, her inter voice telling her she is worthless because thats how she was programmed.

  5. thank you for never giving up and speaking out… i can't imagine how hard all of it must be… you have the strength like no other. Keep killing it girl, you are awesome and I hope you find happiness and people that appreciate how great, intelligent, strong, and resilient you are. You deserve so much better from this world.

  6. Education is helping to change perception of this horrible crime.  People blamed the victim. "She shouldn't have run away." "She just didn't want to listen to her parents." They're now beginning to understand the terrible things that were happening in the home, that made the child flee.  Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. Sadly our own cps system here in nj handed me and my sister to a pedofile that had complains of molesting female foster kids in his wifes house

  8. Dogs are so much better than humans in regard to "being humane" towards others. Dog owners know what I'm talking about. I don't have to explain it.

  9. When I listen to a Ted Talk I start at middle of video and even at that point the speaker still hasn't addressed the title of the video yet sometimes not until the last 2-3 minutes.

  10. i had an awful almost kidnapped experience yesterday (christmas) and i just woke out from a nightmare i just can’t put into words how scared i am stay safe these holidays everyone

  11. When she stepped in the room and it was her trafficker something wasn’t handled properly because you would think you need some type of documented proof maybe they were working with the traffickers because like she said it was money involved

  12. I wish I could hug you, Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am very sorry for what you went through. May God continue to bless you.

  13. It’s 2020 and now that I’m a mom I realize the terror of human trafficking. I didn’t know it still existed till more media coverage has been given. I have 3 little girls and I think this is one of my worse fears. No child, boy or girl, should ever have to go through this, ever. It’s terrifying, from the people that are guilty, to the way the victims are treated
    Ps. Your last name is my maiden name.

  14. Wow…I’m from Fairfax, Virginia. It’s really crazy how this type of stuff could happen anywhere and so close to me. Barbara you are so brave and strong to share your story. I’m so sorry you had to go through that and I can’t imagine the mental trauma and turmoil you went through. God sees all, He will avenge you and punish those wicked trackers for what they did.

  15. "We can do more to stop it. We can all make a difference!" doesn't say anything at all about what can be done to make a difference
    I'm sorry to say, knowing about it does almost nothing. Here I am with this knowledge. Now what?

  16. You are inspiring.

    I wonder if the police officers ,who called your trafficker instead of your family, was male…?
    Throughout history men have always tried to ‘control’ women. Men have always dominated the legal system, police force, and government.
    So glad times are changing and you were able to get changes to legislation through. Hopefully this will help other young girls.

  17. i see all of these comments saying that they had the same thing happen to them. the fact that these even are stories to be told makes me want to barf

  18. brought tears to my eyes… i was almost trafficked as a broke 19 year old with a traumatic past. my heart aches for you.

  19. I rarely comment on videos, but this was so moving and brave that I have to extend my warmest thoughts and wish you all the very best in the future, Barbara! Thanks for sharing this tragic story with us. You've done so well to turn your life around!

  20. That's how the democratic part operates ..all the way trafficers operate
    an how they prey on people … Ironic
    Don't ya think

  21. Sending you love and support. Thank you for your story so that we are aware so that we can prevent this from happening to someone else.

  22. There would be NO selling of women if the MEN involved with prostitution were arrested and given a record!! Without clients there would be no predators!

  23. Please keep telling your story. I wholly agree that one is just as important as a billion. I hope that every time someone sees your story it changes a life through a chain of events. Thank you for sharing, I wish you had had more time.

  24. A shame such people's stories can't be vetted….oh wait. Convince a Tedx organizer that you have a tale of woe and that makes you expert and worthy of stage time. LOL.

  25. The scariest part of this was I stayed in foggy bottom and went to DuPont over the weekend I live in Fairfax.. this hits home omg so scary

  26. Did you know there are some cases were someone willingly traffics themselves just to get money for food? Apparently it's real.

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