INDIA – On World Day Against Trafficking, one of the founding members of the Global Survivor Network Leadership Council spoke out publicly for the first time in her home state of Maharashtra. Lara,* a survivor of sex trafficking, started off the conversation with candor as she addressed the state Minister of Women and Child Development (WCD), Ms. Yashomati Thakur.
“I have called to share with you the problems I faced after my rescue and while I was placed at the shelter home…and I need your support in whatever I share with you.”
Lara’s life experiences and determination to pursue justice for herself—both through legal and social means—caught the attention of Minister Thakur. She invited Lara to participate in the call on July 30, to hear how social services could be strengthened to provide comprehensive care, safety and security for survivors from those initial interactions with law enforcement to the ongoing care provided in aftercare shelter homes. (The call was then posted on the Minister’s Facebook and Instagram.)
Lara shared how sensitizing police is critical for protecting survivors. “When I went to police, they asked me questions in a strange way. If any other girl went through such interrogation, she would think twice of whatever she would share, as she would be worried it would cause her more trouble,” she said, adding that she was grateful for the support of an NGO and social workers who were present with her when she was rescued.
She also suggested adding more resources to aftercare shelter homes, especially for permanent, full-time counsellors to help survivors recover emotionally. The effects of trauma must be understood and addressed by practitioners and staff, and Lara advocates for increased resource development to help survivors in the restoration process.
Lara also lamented those who “speak badly about exploited girls.” She added, “If you rescue a girl from such a situation and then blame her for whatever happened to her—with no family support—it would do no good.”
“During my travels, I have heard many stories,” Minister Thakur described. “Some stories are etched in my heart. Lara’s story is one such story.”