From victim to leader: A young survivor graduates and empowers others like her

July 25, 2022

Sex trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit and can often strip victims of their self-worth and voice. We exist to reverse and prevent that. Survivors must be at the center of this fight, their voices amplified to reverberate and make a lasting impact.

At Atlas Free, we increase the volume of lived experience voices and equip survivors for leadership opportunities. We tell their stories repeatedly, and just as we do with Local Partners, we empower survivors with resources, education, and a platform to help others do the same.

In 2021, our agile investment approach to what's working locally helped empower a young survivor named Priyanka* to go from trafficking victim to lived experience leader after being trafficked at 12.

Today, she has recently graduated with her bachelor's degree and is an anti-trafficking advocate in her community.

Priyanka was born in a small village in Nepal. Her father died when she was young, so she and her three brothers were cared for by their single mother. In Priyanka's culture, when a girl is 12 years or older, she has two options: leave her village to find work or be forced into marriage as a child bride. According to Human Rights Watch, in Priyanka's home country of Nepal, 37% of girls marry before age 18.

During this time, a man promised her a good job where she could earn a lot of money. "You don't need to work with dust and soil. You can live a free life." His words were an empty promise and a common ploy used by traffickers. Victims of sex trafficking are often manipulated and coerced into a promise of a better life, only to arrive and find themselves in a living nightmare, away from their support system and community.

In hopes of a better life and a way to support her single mother, she accepted his offer, and he took her to India, where she was trafficked for two years. At age 14, she was rescued and brought to one of our Local Partner's aftercare facilities for restorative care.

We currently operate over 60 safe homes in our global partner network, a collection of local organizations from aftercare to policy that are strategically vetted by us and that we come alongside to advance the movement.

In 2021, 1,277 people received life-changing residential aftercare—nearly one-and-a-half times as many people as last year. In these life-changing aftercare facilities, we provide resources like food, shelter, and therapy so that survivors like Priyanka can experience holistic healing and brighter futures.

Aftercare services can include:

  • Medical Support
  • Vocational Skills
  • Education
  • Life Skills
  • Trauma-informed counseling
  • Individual and group therapy
  • A place for safety, community, and belonging

At Atlas Free, our holistic model is global and local; we empower local experts who have already made great strides in the fight. We come alongside organizations to inspire new ideas, drive strategic action, and push towards integrated progress for young women like Priyanka.

Investing in local partners who create an empowering space to help women like her achieve their academic goals is critical. But fighting trafficking doesn't start and stop with safe homes alone.

When you invest in Atlas Free, you invest in a strategic investment approach, supporting over 40 partners and over 300 unique programs, elevating the movement, and empowering girls like Priyanka with economic empowerment, education, and more. 

Today, Priyanka is safe, free, and vigilant about educating girls about human trafficking in the village where she grew up. She has since moved out of our safe home and teaches at a school in her village. She is not just a teacher; she is an anti-trafficking agent.

*Name has been changed to protect the survivor.