By the numbers
- 200 women and girls are forced into the commercial sex trade every day in India.
- 19 girls younger than age 18 are forced into a marriage every minute.
- 2.5 million people are victims of human trafficking at any given time by conservative estimates.
- Women make up two-thirds of the reported victims of human trafficking.
- 79 percent of human trafficking victims are taken for purposes of sexual exploitation.
- More than 27 million people were estimated to being involved in the sex trafficking industry in 2013 in India.
- 9 is the average age of girls in India forced into prostitution.
Vicki Moore didn’t realize casually surfing the Web in 2004 could change her life. But with one click of the mouse, her eyes were opened to a whole new world she never knew existed.
“Ten years ago, I had never heard of human trafficking,” Moore said.
The Gainesville woman found herself scrolling through worldwide statistics about human trafficking, the global trade of humans for forced labor, sexual slavery and beyond. Then Moore watched an interview about a young Indian woman who had escaped the sex trafficking industry.
“Her story was she was forced into prostitution as a young girl,” Moore said, recalling the video. “She never got to go to school. She couldn’t read or write. She had no skills. She couldn’t get a job.”
Hearing the young woman’s testimony shocked the former stay-at-home mom and bookkeeper.
“(The girl) said ‘I’m not asking for a free handout, I’m just looking for someone to teach me to do something,’” said Moore, who is fond of India after visits to the country as a missionary. “After I read all the information and watched this video, I felt God had really called me to do something. I was like ‘I have to do something.’ And I did.”
In 2004, Moore founded the anti-human trafficking nonprofit Rahab’s Rope. In a decade of service to the human trafficking victims of India, the calling has led Moore halfway around the
world and back. In November, it took the North Georgia native all the way to Geneva, Switzerland, and the United Nations Forum of the nongovernmental organization Committee on the Status of Women.
Participating the annual conference alongside 680 fellow advocates from around the globe, Moore attended several sessions and workshops discussing international women’s rights to education and health, among other topics.
The 55-year-old was confirmed in her belief Rahab’s Rope is on the right path to making a difference in the lives of women and girls in India. A rapidly growing economy, an epidemic of sex-selective abortions and cyclical poverty have all contributed to the boom in India’s modern sex trade, which now involves more than 27 million people and is one of the largest in the world, according to a 2013 investigation by The New York Times.
“For me and what we do with our women in India, we’re on track with what needs to happen with our educational and vocational training,” Moore said. “What (UN Women) is trying to make happen for women all around the world, we’re in that process already.”
Rahab’s Rope operates and funds facilities in four Indian cities including Goa, Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore. Many are “aftercare” facilities, or places where victims of sex trafficking and their children can go for shelter after being rescued from the industry. The women are educated in vocational and life skills such as sewing and beading.
Rahab’s Rope receives two shipments a month of goods the women create in India, including jewelry, purses and blankets. The women are paid when the goods are shipped, supplying them with a steady income. All proceeds from the store and the organization’s website support its anti-human trafficking efforts.
The ultimate goal is to give the women skills to find employment.
“Our goal is not to keep women employed (with Rahab’s Rope) for the rest of their lives,” Moore said. “We want to be transitional. We want them to be successful in their own communities and cities.”
Change in mindset
At the conference, Moore was also affirmed in her belief teaching a girl to value herself is just as important as teaching her to sew.
Even as adults, the victims of sex trafficking find it difficult to break free.
“Trying to get (adult women) out of (brothels) is almost impossible, largely due to their mindset,” Moore said. “At that point, their thought process is ‘This was what was meant to be for my life. There isn’t anything else. I don’t have a choice.’”
Like the girl in the video, many victims of sex trafficking have been trapped in the industry their whole lives.
“In a lot of these countries, these girls don’t think they can say no to abuse,” Moore said. “(A workshop) was talking about how girls need to be taught that they do have rights, and their bodies are their own. We do that, too, as part of our life skills classes.”
Over time, even the most hardened of mindsets can change.
“(The most gratifying part) is in our aftercare home,” Moore said. “Seeing a girl who comes in that had that mindset of she won’t make eye contact, she doesn’t smile, there’s no hope for me, and as we just work with her through the life skills and vocational training, her whole body changes. Her mindset changes, but even the way she looks. You can see hope in her eyes.”
Those who have seen the organization’s work firsthand can’t deny Rahab Rope’s approach.
Emily Cohen, the store’s retail manager, has visited India twice, most recently for 10 months at a children’s home the organization supports financially.
“I am honored and blessed to be a part of this ministry,” Cohen said. “I’ve seen the ins and outs, and it’s the real deal. They talk the talk.”
Mallory Duckworth, a senior at the University of North Georgia majoring in human services, went to India with UNG and Rahab’s Rope in a partnership to help Indian women bond with their babies.
“(Moore’s) passion for what she does has not diminished — I think it has really grown for everything she does with the ministry,” Duckworth said. “It’s really powerful just to be able to be a part of her dream that’s been put into action.”
Moore has been invited to attend the Forum of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women’s largest annual conference in New York City in March. She will watch many of her fellow advocates from the Geneva conference make recommendations to world governments about how to best protect the rights of women around the world.
While she always thought her organization would grow, Moore never imagined it would take her to the halls of international governance.
“(When I first began Rahab’s Rope) I could honestly say I never thought I would go to Geneva, to the UN,” Moore said. “But I did honestly feel in the beginning that we would grow. The problem (of sex trafficking) is so huge, we knew that as we worked through it over the years that opportunities would arise in other areas and that’s happened.”
Her recent visit only confirms the mission she has been dedicated to for the last decade.
“It’s good for me to get to see ‘OK, (the UN) is really working at this higher level to try to make it trickle down to the grass-roots area,’ but it takes both,” Moore said. “It’s not just going to happen coming from the top down. You’ve got to have the grass roots and all the peripheries working as well to make things change for women and girls around the world.”