TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A former bank financial analyst, Shandra Woworuntu, became a victim of human trafficking in the United States when she was 25 years old. Fortunately, she was able to escape her kidnappers by jumping out of a bathroom window in Brooklyn.
"They locked me up," Shandra said. "I couldn't open the door. I opened the window to try and jump from the second floor."
Shandra Woworuntu came to America in 2001 from Indonesia under the impression she would be working as a waitress in a major hotel. She paid US$3,500 between airfare and administrative fees to obtain the job. When she got to New York, her passport and other identification were taken away, she said. She was taken to a brothel in Connecticut, far away from any neighbors, Woworuntu said to AFP on January 28, 2014.
Shandra found herself in an underworld of sex trafficking and prostitution that she never imagined before coming to the US. She was forced to perform sexual favors for 24 hours a day at different brothels throughout NYC and Connecticut. After many attempts, she was able to escape.
But escape was not easy. Shandra was forced to survive without money or shelter. She was far from her family and her support system back home. She finally met someone who connected her to law enforcement, and she received a referral to Safe Horizon, a victim assistance agency in New York, where advocates helped her to get back on her feet.
According to The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) agency, there are at least 14,000 to 17,000 of women and children that are being smuggled to US each year. They are forced to work in brothel, plants, and bar as prostitutes. "It is a very organized crime," said Melysa Sperber, the agency's director.
Based on the agency's report entitled 'Global Trafficking in Persons' in 2013, The United States of America admitted that they have been the source, transits, and destinations of a number of countries including Mexico, Thailand, Philippine, Honduras, and Indonesia to send in sex slaves and illegal workers.
Reflecting on Shandra's horrible experience, a number of parliament members and US citizens are formulating a law that prohibits foreign people to be employed as prostitutes and illegal workers. Shandra also join the effort in formulating the law against human trafficking.
"I hope to contribute more to the other human trafficking victims by identifying them. I believe that my connection, the Safe Horizon, would do many efforts to fight against modern slavery," said Shandra.
MARIA RITA | INSIDER | AFP