Media Release

A groundbreaking book focussing on the lives of 40 trafficked women in the Philippines and the sinister and structural oppression of young women on which the sex trade thrives will be launched at Our Community's Melbourne headquarters today (Thursday, August 28).

The book, I Have a Voice: Trafficked Women in Their Own Words, focuses on the lives of 40 trafficked Filipino women. It overturns the popular and sensationalised image of trafficking as a one-off event involving kidnapping and chains. Through the women's stories - told in their own voices - the book shows that trafficking cannot be attributed to poverty alone, with most women experiencing a lifelong continuum of violence and oppression.

I Have a Voice has been compiled by Sister of Mercy Angela Reed PhD, who has just completed a one-year post-doctoral residency with Our Community, and her colleague Marietta (Mayet) Latonio, a social worker who lives and works in Cebu, Philippines. It has been beautifully illustrated by Sr Venus Marie Pegar SFX, a Filipino sister of the Congregation of St Francis Xavier.

For seven years Angela worked with the 40 Filipino women who had been trafficked for sexual exploitation in Cebu. The women's stories, told in their own words, reveal that rather than being subjected to random acts of victimisation, most were subjected to a slow process of victimisation beginning in early childhood; experiences that made them easy prey to traffickers. More than two thirds of the women interviewed by Angela and Mayet had suffered sexual abuse from a young age.

"Sex trafficking is a very complex global problem and there is no one homogenous sex trafficking experience," Angela says. "Those trying to combat trafficking need to understand the complexities involved in order to better serve the trafficked person."

Angela says that for too long sex trafficking has been attributed to poverty alone. However, her studies relevealed that trafficking was far more complicated. While the cause was demand for sex services, traffickers preyed on those who have myriad vulnerabilities, which could include childhood abuse, social isolation, lack of education and specific 'local' factors.

For many women, Angela says, sex trafficking is part of a lifelong continuum of violence that begins when they are young girls, some as young as three.

"Once we have a better understanding of sex trafficking, we can develop better responses, allocate aid and other resources more effectively and advocate in a more focussed way," Angela said.

"There has been little research done that involves qualitative, in-depth interviews with trafficked women. Some quantitative research is being done, though that is very difficult because sex trafficking is an illicit trade. It is more important that we understand the nature of trafficking and its causes if we are to respond effectively."

The book is expected to inform the anti-trafficking movement worldwide.

Pictures, video and audio are available on request.