“It happened to my body and in your backyard”

An interview with a survivor of sexual slavery.

Shandra Woworuntu is a survivor of sex trafficking from Indonesia. She was 25 years old when the promise of a job lured her from Indonesia to the United States, where she was raped and forced into prostitution. She managed to escape and is now a spokeswoman against human trafficking.

I am the co-founder of the Nomi Network, a non-profit organization that creates job opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking in Asia. I asked Woworunto about her work as an anti-trafficking advocate and what she thinks about the hype around sex trafficking at the Super Bowl.

First, as a survivor and advocate for survivors, what motivates you? 

As a survivor, I give my voice to represent the voiceless. I want to share my faith and hope with other survivors and victims. I jumped from a second-floor small bathroom window to seek my freedom—this was a miracle in my life. It was God’s work at the right time to save my life because he knows I did not belong in that place. With my story, I want to educate people that modern slavery is real. It happened to my body and in your backyard.

Based on your experience and knowledge, do you think there is an increase of sex trafficking around the Super Bowl?

I believe there will be an increase in trafficking activities around the Super Bowl event, but is not specific to sex trafficking. There is another form of human trafficking that needs our attention: Labor trafficking. There is no specific research or report on whether sex trafficking is increasing more than labor mostly because labor trafficking is under-reported.

The trafficker always stands near them and they will not able to ask for help because of the fear of death or a loved one’s death.

Why do you think there is so much hype around trafficking at the Super Bowl? 

Sporting events like the Super Bowl can draw trafficker attention because they know many men come together without family to New Jersey and they want to have some fun drinking, partying, and having sex. But this strategy is probably changing because of the awareness around preventing trafficking at the Super Bowl. But don’t forget that trafficking happens all the time, not only around big sporting events, and not only for sex, but also labor.

Do you know anyone who has been trafficked for labor or sex around sporting events?

I was trafficked in many brothels, casinos and hotels. I was isolated and I didn’t know exactly if there were sporting events. But I do believe many sex- and labor-trafficking survivors were trafficked near sporting events. The trafficker always stands near them and they will not able to ask for help because of the fear of death or a loved one’s death. This crime is hidden; it cannot be seen with plain sight.

Do you have any advice for those attending the Super Bowl and how they can help fight sex trafficking?

Watch and pay attention to your surroundings. Be prepared and bring the hotline number with you in case you see suspicious activity, and please report to NHTRC at 1-888-373-7888. Or call 911. Make sure you are involved in this work. We need to protect and help the victims, especially young children.

Diana Mao
Written by