Timea escaped. She is among the rare victims of human trafficking who do, and among the even rarer, who manage to overcome its trauma.
Timea Nagy came to Canada from Budapest, Hungary in 1998, for the dream of a new job and life. Instead, she fell victim to the horror of human trafficking in North America. Like hundreds of thousands of young women in Canada, the United States, and around the world, she was abducted and forced to work in the sex industry.
Two-thirds of victims of human trafficking are sexually exploited. For Timea, survival, mere survival, was a struggle. Healing was even harder. She admits it took time, understanding, and love. Now, Timea is helping others escape a $150 billion dollar industry.
She has written, spoken, inspired, and fought to secure second chances for victims of human trafficking. Most importantly, she has sought the shift in mindset from victim to survivor. Since 2015, she has been building Timea’s Cause Inc., a social enterprise designed to improve the lives of human trafficking survivors.
Finding the Courage
Breaking the silence took twelve years. Timea struggled with depression and the need to be heard, but speaking out terrified her: “My life was about ‘No’. No, you can’t. No you won’t. You can’t fight human trafficking. You can’t rebuild your life…” Until she couldn’t take it anymore. “There were so many like me who were ghosts, scared, so I finally decided to fight for me and them.”
Timea started writing a book about her experience, to break the silence and the shame that haunt victims of human trafficking. The subject faced resistance and criticism, and remains taboo to this day. Timea explains it’s easier to deny its existence than have to face it.
Aside from the general public, she faced an unexpected backlash from other organizations fighting human trafficking who feared competition for funding. Instead, she suggested they join forces. Working with such groups took her commitment beyond raising awareness to activism: community building and social enterprise.
A Social Enterprise to End Slavery
Timea’s Cause was founded to improve the lives of survivors of human trafficking in North America and around the world. It promotes partnerships between different organizations working to educate and mobilize the public.
These partnerships fund survivor initiatives and programs like online mentoring, an upcoming summer camp, a banking program and an employment program for survivors. Timea’s Cause also works directly with the general public, law enforcement agencies, and the private sector. For instance, she has partnered with corporations and financial institutions to spur the creation of mini startup companies.
Turning Victims Into Survivors
For Timea, healing happens when we come to a place of love and understanding instead of hate. This means talking about experiences not as a story of pain, but as a story of survival and hope. “Healing happened when I was able to tell the story of how I survived with the help of beautiful people who came along and helped me,” says Timea. “Understanding what went wrong and allowed me to be trafficked, helped me to stop blaming myself for it. Getting rid of guilt and shame turned pain into change.”
“You don’t have control over your past, but you are in charge of your future.”
Strength in Love and Understanding.
Anne Frank said, “In spite of all things, I believe people are really good at heart.” Timea too believes in the power of understanding and love. She believes in reaching out to others, having conversations, understanding their points of you and trying to explain hers. “Can I show you the other side of what you see? Can I speak to your heart, not your mind?”
Her advice is disarming, and powerfully simple: By connecting, standing in other people’s shoes, having these conversations, Timea shows us we can achieve so much more.