Margeaux and Junebug, her guide dog for the blind, are honored and humbled to be included in New York's New Abolitionists campaign alongside many other remarkable abolitionists
The New York’s New Abolitionists, a campaign launched by the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition in 2013, seeks to raise awareness around human trafficking and modern-day slavery by recognizing and honoring those who are actively involved in the effort to combat these scourges and provide services to victims, as well as prominent figures willing to lend their stature and take a public stand to condemn trafficking and enslavement.
For further information about this campaign, to purchase the book, and or to find out where you can view the displayed portraits please visit newyorksnewabolitionists.com.
Margeaux Gray | Why human trafficking is a public health problem
by Margeaux Gray
July 25, 2016
The CNN Freedom Project
Margeaux Gray | Resources lacking to stop sex trafficking
by Margeaux Gray
June 22, 2014
The Lexington Herald-Leader
If there is a common thread between my own nearly 15-year ordeal as a trafficking victim and the state of sex trafficking and modern slavery today, it is an agonizing sense of missed opportunities.As a young child here in Kentucky, my nightmare began when I was first auctioned off to a willing buyer and sexually abused. That scenario played out repeatedly in hotel rooms and private homes until I finally escaped at age 18 — far too late to prevent numerous mental and physical health problems.
During those years, many adults might have intervened, but didn't: doctors who failed to ask the right questions, friends and family who missed the signs, teachers who weren't informed enough to notice. But the trafficking and sexual abuse of a child is so hard to fathom that I can almost understand their inability to grasp what was happening. Almost.
But there was one inexcusable missed opportunity. At some point in my tweens or early teens, a concerned individual reported to Child Protective Services their suspicion that I was being abused. I was called to an office, interviewed by a caseworker, and that was it.
My primary memory of that experience is being coached and threatened by my trafficker, who told me I would be removed from my family and friends and locked in jail if I did not respond correctly to questions. I remember feeling terrified, guilty and nervous when I walked into the impersonal CPS office, spoke with a caseworker, and denied being abused.
In hindsight, I realize that the caseworker had inadequate training and experience with trafficking, and was incapable of picking up on any telltale cues I may have communicated. There was no follow-up from CPS. The failure of a system that exists to protect me resulted in my being sold and raped countless times in the following years. I still struggle with my personal experience.
At this stage of my recovery, however, I try to focus on the here and now, and on working to prevent human trafficking. Therefore, it is extremely frustrating — enraging, even — that the system is still failing young trafficking victims today.
In Kentucky, at least 101 victims of human trafficking have been identified, 44 of them children, according to a January 2013 fact sheet from Rescue and Restore, based in Louisville. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center's 2012 annual report documented 345 calls from Kentucky, with a majority of the cases dealing with sex trafficking.
Last August, the University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research Center on Trauma and Children released "Sex Trafficking of Minors in Kentucky," a survey of Kentucky professionals' awareness, knowledge and experiences working with youth victims of sex trafficking.
The report found, among other things, that no single agency is equipped to respond adequately to trafficking victims' needs, professionals who are likely to encounter at-risk youth and crime victims need specialized training, and Kentucky lacks a specialized, long-term shelter for youth exploited in commercial sex. At the national level, research shows that children in the child welfare system are actually the most vulnerable to falling prey to traffickers.
The U.S. State Department last week released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which ranks countries based on whether and how well they are addressing modern slavery. The United States currently has the best possible Tier 1 status, which means we must comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and demonstrate "appreciable progress in combating trafficking."
What opportunities are we missing?
Certainly, we need to treat trafficking victims as victims and offer shelter and long-term support and services that will allow them to fully recover from their trauma. It is ironic that I received no support after escaping, though I eventually found assistance for post-traumatic stress disorder and then blindness — both of which were the direct result of being trafficked.
Too many trafficking victims do not receive emergency services like beds, medical care and the psychological services necessary to protect them from further vulnerability and victimization. Nationally, a Polaris Project survey found only 529 beds exclusively designated for human trafficking survivors, and 28 states don't have any at all.
All of this comes down to resources, and the U.S. government must invest more resources to ensure trafficking victims receive the emergency and long-term support they need and deserve to fully recover. President Barack Obama recently signed an omnibus budget that included a 41 percent increase in funding for Department of Health and Human Services victims services programs. While it's a positive step, it won't be enough.
I cannot abide the fact that thousands of children every year are so completely betrayed by society and a system that should be protecting, defending and uplifting them. I cannot abide anymore wrong questions or missed signs. We must learn to identify and seize upon our opportunities to recognize and support America's trafficked children.
Margeaux Gray | Kentucky can do more to help trafficking victims recoverby Margeaux Gray
Jan. 30, 2014
When you are confronted by human trafficking, it’s likely the sensational story that grabs your attention: police raids, seedy men running distant crime rings and dramatic rescues. Society is understandably transfixed and horrified by the spectacle, and for those safely observing through the evening news, that’s where the story ends.
That exposure is critical because Americans need to know that trafficking occurs so they may one day recognize and stop it. But for each of the thousands of unnamed victims in those gripping stories — as well as those in the less public ones — the end of the crime is only the beginning of a long and difficult story.
My story is largely an invisible one. I was trafficked as a young child, right here in Kentucky. I was taken to private residences and hotels, then auctioned off to anyone willing to pay. Despite numerous unexplained, very grown-up health problems, no physician ever asked whether I was being abused. Not once. When I finally escaped at 18, the first nightmare ended.
I learned quickly that my own isolated horror would be difficult to move beyond. Consequently, I have struggled with an eating disorder, peripheral neuropathy, adrenal insufficiency and blindness — all derivative of the trauma of sexual and physical abuse. I have battled to put the suffering behind me. As a result, I’ve learned that a trafficking survivor is never 100 percent free until we rid ourselves completely of the trauma’s effects. That evolution doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen without personal commitment as well as outside involvement.
You may not be aware that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. I firmly believe that we survivors must advocate for ourselves on all fronts, and persevere until each victim gets the care they need. Kentucky has made progress in doing right. However, survivors are being failed and steps still need to be taken.
Kentuckians should be proud of the state’s recent strides to help child victims of human trafficking. In November, the legislature released its first mandated report on the issue. It highlighted that Kentucky has some of the strongest and most comprehensive “safe harbor” laws that ensure victims are not charged with prostitution or status offenses like truancy that result from their being trafficked. This is a huge step toward acknowledging that trafficking victims truly are victims deserving of compassion and services to help them get back on their feet.
Yet we are failing victims by not adequately providing those essential services. If it were not for art therapy and other psychological assistance I have received, I very likely would not have survived even after I escaped my trafficker. Every survivor deserves the same chance to be truly free. We need to make the right to psychological services a legal right.
Given the newness of Kentucky’s laws, the service infrastructure is still a work in progress and needs to be enhanced to specifically address the unique needs of child victims of human trafficking. I hope you will help me urge lawmakers to understand the complexity of a survivor’s healing process, and ensure our perspectives are involved as they develop those services.
At the federal level, the Congress just passed a 2014 spending bill that increases funding for anti-trafficking programs and victims services for the first time in a decade. This is good news, but we need to do even more to make sure all trafficking victims get the emergency and long-term services they need to recover.
This month especially, when confronted by the hard and uncomfortable reality that human trafficking exists right here at home, I hope you will consider the rest of the story — the one that doesn’t end with a “happy” sensational, rescue-type finale. I hope you will consider that the story only reaches its right conclusion when, after the rescue, victims are facilitated in restoring their mind, body and spirit.