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Survivors Present Recommendations On How To End Human Trafficking


Today the State Department is releasing new recommendations on how to end human trafficking, what they call slavery in the 21st century. And here's what makes the report different. It's written by 11 people who survived human trafficking and are now members of the U.S. Advisory Council on human trafficking.

Earlier today I talked to one of them. Her name is Evelyn Chumbow. She was born in Cameroon. When she was 9, a woman came and told her uncle that Evelyn could move to the U.S., live with a family and go to school. And at first she told me she was excited.

EVELYN CHUMBOW: I was told that I was coming to America, and the first thought in my mind was, woo-hoo, I'm going to come marry Will Smith (laughter). And...

MCEVERS: You're going to come marry Will Smith.

CHUMBOW: (Laughter) That was my first thought, you know, because back in Cameroon, I used to watch a lot of television show, and I assume that is how America was. You know, I was watching "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "The Cosby Show," "90210," you know? So I just was, like, just imagining myself being in that lifestyle that they were living. But when I came here, that's not what happened.

MCEVERS: What happened?

CHUMBOW: You know, for example, I became a slave right here in Silver Spring, Md., you know? I was forced to cook, to clean and did not go to school. It was even harder because I was also being abused physically and mentally. My trafficker used to just use brooms and beat me up. One of her punishment would be, you know - for example, I had to stay standing up from 10:00 p.m. till 5:00 a.m. in the morning if she got tired of beating me.

MCEVERS: The trafficker was a woman.

CHUMBOW: It was a woman, yes. And she had two kids. And I was responsible for those two kids.

MCEVERS: So you - she trafficked you to work in her house.


MCEVERS: How did you escape from your trafficker and from this house?

CHUMBOW: OK, so it was - it's really a long story because my trafficker used one passport and brought, like, six of us, and one of the persons she brought was my cousin. And my cousin is actually - she came, and she saw the abuse of what I was going through, and she helped me escape to go to another family member.

But that other family member also took advantage of the situation, also made me stay in her house for a couple while take care of her kids and never send me to school. So I was trafficked twice.

MCEVERS: And then you eventually got out of that situation...

CHUMBOW: Yeah, I eventually got out (laughter).

MCEVERS: ...And eventually became an American citizen.

CHUMBOW: Yes, (laughter) yeah - so - yeah.

MCEVERS: This has been a long...


MCEVERS: Really a long road for you.

CHUMBOW: It's been a long road.

MCEVERS: What specifically do you think needs to be done? I mean what are some of the recommendations here in this report?

CHUMBOW: One of the recommendation is, you know - is just of course one - is for the world to know that slavery still exists, you know? But most importantly the recommendation was for the president's administration - was for them to help us long-term. That way, we will not revictimized.

I have this quote that I always say. Don't rescue us and give us a life that we cannot maintain, you know, because most of the time they're so focused on trying to rescue us, but then it's like, what happen next? Help us get jobs. Help us not to be on the street, begging. Help us not to fall victims of being traffic again, you know, by providing us long-term services.

MCEVERS: Has doing this work, joining this council, becoming sort of a public face for this issue - has this helped you, you know, work through your own trauma, you know, how difficult things were?

CHUMBOW: Yeah, yeah, it's really been an honor to be on this council. And also it's an honor because I'm working with people that have not only become friends, but they've - I can - I see them as brothers and sisters. Why - because we all (unintelligible) for a common issue. We were all survivors of slave - modern-day slavery.

You know, we might have been trafficked in different form and might not be there as long, but we have just come to understand each other and help each other. We help each other heal, you know? So it's been - you know, it's been an amazing thing for me because I get to be with other people that can understand what I've been through.

MCEVERS: Evelyn Chumbow is a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. Thank you so much.

CHUMBOW: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.