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Joy Bitonio Headshot

Opportunity, Dignity and Hope for Victims of Sex Trafficking

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I became a Half the Sky Los Angeles Ambassador as a result of discovering the Half the Sky Movement series on Netflix. I was shaken to my core by the resilient strength of the women profiled in the documentary. Faced with circumstances of utter hopelessness, these agents of change saw the light at the end of the tunnel and pursued a forward momentum with incomparable courage.

I was especially inspired by the story about Somaly Mam from Cambodia. She was sold into a life of sex slavery at age 12 and escaped after nearly 10 years of unimaginable circumstances. She now devotes herself tirelessly towards rescuing survivors and empowering them with what they need to rebuild their lives. One woman lived, breathed and identified with a problem. One woman was brave enough to not only take a stand, but to hold others up.

According to the stats on the Somaly Mam Foundation website, "human trafficking is considered the world's second largest, fastest growing organized crime." The numbers are staggering. Women and girls make up 98 percent of sex trafficking victims worldwide. Virgins are sold for as little as $200.

While I knew how to define what human trafficking was, I had no idea of what this fully meant. At an estimated 11.7 million, the Asian Pacific region is especially exploited; this area contains the highest concentration of forced labor victims in the world. They enter a life serving 20-30 clients daily... clients who pay a mere $5. These young women and girls are mistreated, neglected and treated as nothing more than a profit turning piece of property.

For over 20 million victims worldwide, this is happening now, and we can stand up for those who are unable to do so on their own. Imagine what can be achieved if the entire population of Southern California took just a single action to fight against this very real, very current issue? That would equate to over 22 million dollars raised. As a young woman living in the free world, I am grateful for the rights and privileges we have the luxury of having. We have so much, and women like Somaly Mam had so little, yet she took a stand for the rights of women in her country and has accomplished so much in raising awareness of this very real world issue.

No matter where you are on the globe, we are all women. Let's challenge each other to accomplish small victories that lead to real change by taking action now.

Here's to women helping women, in our own communities and those across the globe. We are all in this together; I invite you to accept this challenge with me.


I've set up a challenge, asking people to donate just $5. Why this amount? Because it's
the average amount a client of a sex trafficked victim pays for services. Let's spin that
denomination into a positive note of hope, shall we?

Here's a link to the Somaly Mam team for the Raise For Women Challenge. Click on the
"donate" button and select my name from the dropdown menu.