International Human Rights Day is observed each year on December 10, first adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. It is this day that the UN proclaimed “inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Human trafficking is an undeniable violation of human rights and needs immediate attention.
Our Because I Know campaign was created to celebrate the fact that knowledge of human trafficking can inspire meaningful action in our communities — and that is the path to making a difference. You may remember Nevita George, a Research Assistant at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. We sat down with Nevita and asked for her reflections on her drive to strengthen the fight against human trafficking.
During our conversation, Nevita shared, “Because I know about human trafficking, I will root my every conviction in equity to ensure that the ‘US’ in U.S. (United States) celebrates all our unique individualities that make this nation whole.”
Over the past year, Research Director and Co-Founder Dr. Annjanette “AJ” Alejano-Steele has had the opportunity to work closely with Nevita. AJ reflects, “Nevita is exceptionally skilled and driven to conduct community-based research to inform the Colorado anti-trafficking field. Conducting research in this way allows us to honor and amplify diverse community voices and ensure that we truly tell the stories of violence, exploitation, and as importantly, resilience.”
Nevita currently authors a spotlight for the Diversity Committee for Division 12 of the American Psychological Association that highlights diverse scholars within clinical psychology. She is also the author of a re-occurring, original column for the Colorado Psychological Association titled, “We the People” that highlights national DEI-concerns (e.g., LGBTQ+ rights, abortion bans, etc.). Through every avenue of her work, Nevita aims to question whether existing practices properly reflect the needs of our diverse societies. Keep reading to be inspired by Nevita’s story…
Learning about human trafficking from a young age
When did you first become aware of what human trafficking is?
“My interest in working with minoritized communities is really what catalyzed my interest in anti-trafficking efforts. In India, many of us are unfortunately attuned to the issue of human trafficking, as human trafficking networks within India are often spotlighted by the press. From a young age, my grandparents never strayed from discussing the issue with my cousins and me, and they highlighted injustices victims of human trafficking continue to face once they become survivors.
For instance, the discussion of sex and sex acts are quite taboo in Indian culture, and as sex trafficking survivors specifically are often tied to these discussions, they face the consequences of ostracization and stigmatization from the greater Indian community. I noticed this trend within America as well, this notion to ‘look away’ from things we fear or do not understand. But this abhorrent display of injustice is something I could not and did not want to look away from. So, I didn’t.”
How did you feel when you first understood the injustices of human trafficking?
“Honestly, the first emotion that comes to mind is a deep loneliness. To go through an experience of that traumatic magnitude and to have to continue to fight for community and support after… Well, that is an incredibly lonely feeling. As humans, we crave connection, compassion, and love. None of these variables should be too much to ask for, but the loneliness that is felt in their absence is indescribable and a crime in itself.”
What actions has your knowledge of human trafficking inspired you to take?
“In the beginning, I was drawing on anecdotal experiences from myself and loved ones to inform my perspectives on the issues at hand. Through my journey in academia, however, I was given a new gift that turned my opinions into fact — research. Research is really what helped me find my voice in this field.
I now know for a fact that discrimination faced by minoritized identities has large, determinantal impacts on their overall mental and physical health. This knowledge has fueled a new fire in me, an anger of sorts, that has motivated me to take action by first acquiring research-specific training in graduate school. Through my research, I hope to investigate the intersection of trauma and minoritized identity on the nature, severity, and course of mental illness.
How is your interest in doing something about human trafficking connected to your personal story?
“Within the realm of human trafficking, I could not look away from the depth of choice taken away from survivors, first being forced into the life and then being ostracized by their communities after leaving. I feel we as a people often don’t realize that if some voices are silenced in society, our collective voice is muted.
Along these lines, I often think about our nation’s laws that we hold so dear. Specifically, the preamble of our constitution that implores us to (and I am paraphrasing here), ‘establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, and promote the general Welfare’ of the American people. We can’t claim to adhere to the preamble if we do not protect the most vulnerable identities in the room. So, it is my interest to uplift all voices, promote inclusion, and thwart loneliness that drives me to this important work.”
How has your time at LCHT supported your involvement in the anti-trafficking movement?
“The main thing the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking has taught me is to bring humility and empathy into every crevice of the work I do and will continue to do. This looks like bringing in community and survivor voices, working in teams, and always seeking consultation. With the opportunities afforded to me by LCHT, I have been able to connect with anti-trafficking coalitions and task forces around the state of Colorado. I have been able to connect with survivors and am a steadfast proponent of facilitating survivor collaboration in every project. In my short time with the team, I have seen the truest displays of bravery and genuineness I have ever encountered, both from the community and the LCHT team alike.”
What are you most proud of when you think about your contributions to anti-trafficking?
“Mostly, I am proud of being a part of a team that works to identify root vulnerabilities that exacerbate such a pervasive public health crisis. LCHT doesn’t shy away from asking really difficult questions. We have tough meetings and dedicate a lot of time and love into the work that we do. All that makes a tangible difference, and it inspires courage that I know we can pass onto future generations. I am thrilled to be able to connect my work at LCHT with my own interest in eliminating disparities among minoritized populations.”
What are your wishes for the future of this movement?
“One thing I often hear from anti-trafficking activists is that they wish people understood that trafficking is far more pervasive than they realize. It’s not like the movie Taken and it does not only occur if people are ‘stolen’ from the streets. What it does do is affect every gender, and it disproportionately impacts those with minoritized identities. Now tying this theme back to my own drive for working in justice-oriented movements, I wish people understood how by continuing to close our eyes to injustice, we continue to ‘other’ those around us.
By continuing to believe trafficking doesn’t happen in our communities, we are inadvertently silencing survivor voices. It is not easy to see this, it is not easy to open our eyes, because I have found that once we do, we can’t go back. While it may be more comfortable to stay oblivious, I can say that there is no more fulfilling feeling than to do the work we do. To open our eyes, to see, and to uplift all voices. So, I wish people knew that even just being aware of human trafficking means that they are leaning into community. What is more beautifully human than that?”
3 Ways to Advance Human Rights
Want to help leaders like Nevita in helping to end human trafficking? Join the movement to end human trafficking and create a better future for all. Here are the top 3 ways to make a difference this International Human Rights Day:
- DONATE. Your gift today will support anti-trafficking training, community-based research, Colorado’s 24/7 Human Trafficking Hotline, and the development of future human rights leaders. Any amount you can give fuels progress!
- GET TRAINED. Get yourself or your organization/community group trained to identify human trafficking and be there for survivors.
- GIVE TIME. Support survivors as a volunteer advocate for Colorado’s 24/7 Human Trafficking Hotline. Provide callers and texters with the resources they need.