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April 04, 2016 11:10 PM

One Woman's Mission To End Human Trafficking

It's an issue many don't want to talk about, but human trafficking is happening around the world.

Each survivor handles their time as a victim differently, but one woman who is speaking in Watertown this week doesn't want to stay silent anymore. 

Barbara Amaya
 was a human trafficking victim on the East Coast for more than a decade, starting at age 12. Now, she travels the country to raise awareness on this serious issue. 

Barbara Amaya is reading from a book. It's something almost everybody did while growing up, but not Amaya. 

"The person who trafficked me would always, I wasn't allowed to read or write, anything, and if he caught me reading or writing with a pencil and piece of paper he would beat me severely," Amaya said. 

The book is a memoir on her life called Nobody's Girl. In it, she details her life being trafficked. She was abused, addicted to heroin, and arrested.

Amaya eventually made it out of the situation, and thanks to a worker at a rehab facility, was able to get back into society healthy and alive.

For years, Amaya always blamed herself for what happened. Later, she realized she was a human trafficking victim, and saw that she wasn't alone. 

"What happened to me was still happening and it enraged me. It propelled me forward and all I wanted to do was help people and make a difference. That's all I wanted to do," Amaya said. 

Amaya now travels the country, speaking out about what happened to her. That journey brings her to Watertown this week. Jenna Moffatt with the Watertown Initiative to Prevent Sex Trafficking says it's great having a survivor who's willing to share her story. 

"First just giving a name to human trafficking and recognizing that it not only happens across the globe, throughout the US, but here in South Dakota as well," Moffatt said. 

It's a silent crime many don't talk about. Amaya says the only way to prevent future stories like hers is to speak out against human trafficking. 

"Silence is really a part of the whole journey of being a victim of human trafficking. Traffickers don't want you to tell anybody what's happening," Amaya said. 

Amaya isn't afraid to use her voice, or her words, to spread awareness of human trafficking. 

Amaya is also a cancer survivor. On Tuesday, she will be speaking twice to students at Lake Area Technical Institute, and will also speak at the Watertown Events Center. 
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