Thursday, March 19, 2015


We Got Her! She’s Safe!

“We got her! She’s safe!” I was holding my breath as I heard those words on the other end of the phone! My heart was beating so fast!

She was only 14-years-old when she agreed to meet face-to-face with the 14-year-old boy she had met online.  What a NICE guy, she had grown to like him after their many online “talks.” 

Telling no one, she left to meet him at a park in the town.  The 14-year-old boy turned out to be a man who dealt in human trafficking.   She was kidnapped - TAKEN to a larger city!

Her mother frantic and not knowing what had happened contacted local law enforcement.  It soon became apparent through the communication discovered on the girl’s computer that she “voluntarily” went to the park.  Runaway was listed on the police records.

After a period of time law enforcement services were no longer provided to find the woman’s daughter.  This was not unusual due to the large number of runaways in the U.S. and law enforcement's limited amount of manpower.

The single mom frustrated and overwhelmed called our private investigator, a service we provide without cost, to see if we would help.  We agreed to take on her case.

Even as we were working on the case, the mother made a common mistake - she went to the streets of the city to try to find her daughter. We understood that she was distraught and blaming herself, nevertheless, we had to deter her from looking for her daughter.  Why? So that the detectives, who were working with the authorities, could do their job without mom “blowing it out of the water.”

Believing her daughter to be gone for good or dead, the mother contemplated taking her own life.  I tried to contact her, praying for the right words to say.  I left numerous messages on her answering machine and cell phone.  I told her that she was a good mom, this was not her fault, and that I was praying for her and her daughter. I encouraged her to not give up hope. 

That night her daughter was rescued!

Thanks to the hours and hours of our team working along side of law enforcement, we located her. The policemen literally broke down the door to where she was being held. The traffickers had shaved her head, completely changed her appearance, drugged, beat, raped and sold her body on line and on the street. She was helpless, celebrating her birthday in captivity.

The daughter and mother were whisked away to special care and protection with only the clothes on their back.  The trafficker had got away.

Even in the midst of her ordeal, the mother sent word of “Special Thanks” to me for making all those supportive phone calls that night!

TAKE ACTION:  The story of this teenage girl has been played out over and over again, because of our children’s vulnerability. Our youth often believe that everyone who are on their social media friends’ lists are actually their friends.  This belief makes them susceptible to being lured by a nefarious adult to a dangerous meeting.  As adults we can take action to try to prevent this by:

  • Teaching our children not to chat with or accept as a friend anyone that they don’t know.
  • Discussing the dangers of going and meeting with someone they have met online.
  • Making sure all privacy settings are set on ALL electronic devices,
  • Monitoring our children’s Internet use and the apps they have on their phone (7 Dangerous Apps parents should know about for their kids), and
  • Teaching them why it is important to tell you about any sexual or suspicious activity that occurs online, and then as a parent reporting it to law enforcement (Cyber Tip Line).
Saundra Lawson is the Founder and Executive Director of Project Liberty, a nonprofit investigative human trafficking task force and victim assistance/support team based out of Mid-Michigan, which primarily serves victims in America.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


There are many networks and resources available nationally and globally with the sole purpose to combat human trafficking. When I first started researching human trafficking about five years ago, I was overwhelmed with the number of organizations that are devoted to protecting human rights and ensuring that victims have a voice.

Examples of national human trafficking organizations that accomplish substantial work in the U.S. as well as abroad are:
·      The Polaris Project has served hundreds of victims, trained thousands of individuals, including foreign nationals, and provided resources, such as the National Human Trafficking Hotline 
·      International Justice Mission has investigative efforts around the world;
·      The NationalCenter for Missing and Exploited Children is a leading non-profit organization that works with law enforcement and other professionals to ensure the well-being of all children;
·      Shared Hope International  offers a variety of victim services; and
·      Free the Slaves is an international grassroots anti-slavery organization.

For some these large organizations may seem out of our reach, because they are not located in your community.  The good news is that local efforts to combat human trafficking have expanded greatly in the last decade.  Many states in the U.S. have regional and statewide task forces that help connect people from all professions. Volunteers at the various task forces are accomplishing substantial work by offering their skill sets to collaboratively combat human trafficking.  This is why I decided to start locally and see where I could help, which is how I got involved with the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.

Human trafficking will not be combated without the ongoing help from all levels of government, including prosecutors, policy makers, law enforcement, medical professionals, grassroots groups, activists and YOU and ME.

TAKE ACTION:  If you are already on the frontline and working to fight human trafficking don’t give up!  Think about all the positive things you have accomplished and what yet needs to be done and use these reflections to keep you moving forward. 

If you are not involved yet, but you are reading this blog, then it probably means that you have concerns about this issue.  Take the next step and find a task force in your area and see how your experiences and qualities can be put to use. If a task force doesn’t exist, find a group of people who share your same vision and create one.  The most important thing you can do is get involved because you never know how valuable your time and expertise can be to someone else.

Sona Movsisyan is a senior at Michigan State University, studying in the James Madison College. Her aspiration is to be a human rights attorney and an advocate for victims of human trafficking.  Sona is currently an intern working for MHTTF.