Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trafficked – Kim Purcell

America is the land of the free, right? Not if you’re part of the human trafficking trade that exists here.

Just ask Hannah. In her home country of Moldova, Hannah is shattered by the loss of her parents in a terrorist bombing. Left with only her ailing grandmother, Hannah meets a travel agent who lures her with promises of a bright new future in America. A family in Los Angeles needs a nanny and is willing to pay $400 a week for her services in addition to providing food and a room for her to stay. Her best friend, Katya, worries this could all be a ruse – sometimes carrots like these are dangled to young girls who then find themselves overseas and trapped as sex slaves – but Hannah’s uncle believes she will be safe and encourages her to go. Hannah dreams of one day becoming a doctor, so the opportunity to go live in America, learn English and save money for university is too good of an opportunity for her to pass – besides, she can send some of her money home to help her Babulya get cataract surgery.

From the moment Hannah arrives in America, though, she knows she should’ve listened to Katya. Before boarding her international flight, the agent who obtained her false documents forces her to show her thanks by performing a sexual act on him. Further, he warns her that if she doesn’t do just as the family asks of her, she might be turned over to American authorities and jailed or, worse, passed off to someone else who may decide to use her for sexual purposes. After an intimidating interrogation at LAX, the customs officials at the airport eventually wave her through, though they seem to be aware she’s in America under false pretenses. Rattled and scared, she arrives at the home of the family she will be working for only to discover her job will be different than originally described.

Though the father of the household, Sergey, seems nice enough, his wife Lillian makes clear to Hannah that SHE is the head of household and Hannah will do her bidding. Hannah is to be up and have breakfast ready for everyone by 7 every morning; she is responsible for cleaning the entire house everyday; she is to tend to their two children, Maggie and Michael, and only speak in Russian to them, since it’s their native language and Lillian doesn’t want them to forget it; she is never to be alone with Sergey and when speaking to him, she is NOT to look him in the eye but instead stare at the floor; she is never to leave the house alone or make phone calls; and though they have a beautiful, spacious home with additional rooms, she is to sleep on a cot in the corner of their closed-in garage. Sounds like fun, huh? As if the drudgery of her job doesn’t sound bad enough, Hannah learns she won’t be paid since she ‘owes’ them $4,000 in fees they paid to bring her to America, and she won’t possibly have time to attend English classes or go to school since she has a full day working with them – basically 6am to 11pm.

With time, things only get worse for Hannah as Lillian - already insecure and threatened by her - grows more jealous and irrational. She even becomes physical a time or two and hits Hannah. On the flipside, Sergey shows her some compassion and, on occasion, will slip her some money, but his niceness comes with a price - unwelcomed sexual advances. Then there’s the family friend, Paavo, who offers to take Hannah off the Platanovs’ hands if she becomes too  difficult to manage– y’see, he has brothels that need girls like her. When Hannah is cleaning one day and discovers all her letters to home opened and stored in a draw by Lillian, who was supposed to have mailed them, Hannah realizes she must somehow find a way to escape. But what can a foreign girl with no contacts, no money and only broken English do?!

Hannah’s story will break your heart – especially, when you consider stories like this are real and happening right now here in America. Purcell’s portrayal of Hannah’s everyday life of servitude from sun-up to sundown both humbles and shames the reader at the everyday freedoms we take for granted. Moreover, Purcell touches on the harsh loneliness Hannah feels trapped with this family – she has no one at home to talk to and no one her own age in America to share simple conversation with, which is why she daydreams about the teenage boy who lives next door. In fact, the highlight of her entire day is hauling out the trash at 11pm on the off-chance she might say ‘hello’ to the boy as he takes out his family’s trash – his only chore. As tough a subject as Trafficked is, it’s a story that needs to be told and you won’t be able to put Hannah's story down.

To learn more about Purcell, you can visit her website at http://kimpurcell.com/home . As Purcell states in her ‘Author’s Note,’ twenty percent of sales from this book will go to help organizations that fight human trafficking.

No comments:

Post a Comment