In the Booth with Ruth – Aashika N. Damodar, Anti-Human Trafficking Activist, Advocate and Non-Profit Founder

Aashika Damodar is an anti-human trafficking activist, advocate and non-profit founder. In this in depth interview, she explains what inspired her to devote her life to this cause, what her work involves, and how other people can help. She has kindly supplied her contact email address for anyone who would like to talk through becoming part of the anti-human trafficking movement and personally discuss the ways you can be involved.

Ruth Jacobs

Aashika N. Damodar

What inspired you to support the movement against child sexual slavery and exploitation?

So many events in my life have culminated to this point: a life dedicated to combating sexual violence and trafficking. When I entered university, I learned about a trafficking case that took place right across from my dormitory at UC Berkeley. Lakireddy, a Berkeley landlord and restaurant owner, came under investigation when a young woman died in one of his apartment buildings. He was convicted for both sex and labor trafficking. This made me realize that what makes modern-day slavery so elusive is that its existence lies in the most seemingly normal terrain. By this point, issues of sexual violence and trafficking had crept into so many facets of my life, from my own personal experience, initial exposure to the issue in post-tsunami India, in my backyard at Berkeley, in an Indian restaurant in the same area, and…

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In the Booth with Ruth – David Wayne, Child Trafficking Survivor and Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate

“I still felt the need for further support in dealing with the memories of being trafficked though, and this led me to GEMS, based in New York. Thanks to the efforts of Rachel Lloyd and all the GEMS girls, I finally began to come to terms with the nature of the crimes that had been committed….

From early on in my own recovery, it was very obvious to me that I had a greater chance to heal if I assisted in the healing of others. Even more of a contributing factor though, is that I was a witness to sexual crimes committed against others whom I cared very deeply for. While my own suffering is nothing to dismiss, I suffered much greater distress in watching these events happen and in spite of attempts to stop them, remained unable to help. I’m hypersensitive regarding people in dangerous or degrading situations, especially children and women. These things aside, there is also the recognition of the bigger picture and a desire to lend assistance in any way I can to combat modern slavery and exploitation…

I’m forty-four years old and my life is just beginning.” David Wayne, Child Trafficking Survivor and Anti-Human Trafficking Advocate.

Ruth Jacobs

David Wayne

How did you become involved in the movement against sex trafficking and sexual exploitation?

My involvement began as I was receiving EMDR trauma therapy to recover from lifelong posttraumatic stress disorder. I was overwhelmed by flashbacks, night terrors, anxiety and depression that were triggered by the passing of my father, who began grooming and sexually assaulting me at the age of three, and then trafficked me on a regular basis, mostly in my home state of Pennsylvania, but also in New Jersey and Delaware, from age four to the time I entered school at the age of five. He photographed me pornographically at the age of twelve as I was forced to engage in sexual acts with an older female cousin. Throughout early childhood, there were other male perpetrators, and at the age of ten I was lured into the home of a middle-aged, female neighbor, who made sexual advances…

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In the Booth with Ruth – Rachel Lloyd, Founder and CEO of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS)

“We need cultural change, social change – we need people’s hearts and minds to change – whether it’s the man who goes out to purchase sex because he doesn’t see anything wrong with it, the cop who arrests women and girls and believes that it’s a victimless crime, the social worker who treats the girl who walks through her doors with scorn and disgust, or just the individual who walks past the woman on the street every day and never offers her a cup of coffee or even makes eye contact because they see her as ‘less than’ them.” Rachel Lloyd, Founder and CEO of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS).

Ruth Jacobs

Rachel Lloyd

How did you get involved in the movement against sex trafficking and sexual exploitation?

I came to the US in 1997, originally working as a missionary with a very small non-profit that was working with adult women in the commercial sex industry. At that point, there really wasn’t a movement per se, just a handful of organizations here and there, and it was just seen as a ‘prostitution’ issue that should be dealt with primarily through the criminal justice system. Within my first few weeks on doing outreach into the jails and on the streets, I met girls and young women, and adult women, who’d experienced so much violence, trauma and exploitation but were being seen and treated as criminals and pariahs. There were no specific services in NYC for a girl or young woman who was in the life and there was no sense of a need for larger…

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