When Red Lights Don’t Stop Traffic: NYC Exhibit Details Horrors of Sex Trafficking

Elena, a 19-year-old girl from Moldovan, was thrilled when she was promised a good job as a receptionist in the United Kingdom. She packed her bags in hopes of a better future, but upon arrival she quickly became aware of the gruesome reality that laid ahead. When she entered the country her passport was taken away and she was forced into the sex trade.

Elena’s story is not unique. According to the International Labor Organization, there are about 2.5 million people forced to work in human trafficking at any one time, but so few of us know the grime reality of what it means to be bought and sold.

That is, until now.

Oscar winning actor and human rights campaigner Emma Thompson’s latest project, an exhibit called “The Journey,” gives visitors an in-depth look into the “journey” of a woman being trafficked into the sex industry. Presented by Thompson, New York Mayor Bloomberg, and other special guest artists and curators, the art installation walks you through seven shipping containers depicting the seven stages women who are trafficked experience: Hope, Journey, Uniform, Bedroom, Customer, Stigma, Resurrection. 

“Journey’s” week-long stop in Manhattan on its world tour against the trafficking of sexual slavery is an important stop as New York is a major entry and transit hub for trafficked people. The project is just one face of the Helen Bamber Foundation, an international human rights charity based in the UK that works with survivors of genocide, torture, trafficking and rape who seek safety and refuge. The exhibit opened in New York on Washington Place East, off Washington Square Park, on Monday, November 9th and runs through Sunday November 15th.

My sister and I went to check it out last night and I have to say it was a very moving experience. Depicting the horrors of human trafficking is a tall order – not only because of the complexity of the issue, but because of the stigma and silence that surrounds women sold into sex slavery. “Journey,” gives voice to these women’s stories and allows visitors a glimpse into their reality. Walking through I was shocked, saddened, sickened, and awed. Every day women like you and me are tricked with promises of a brighter future only to end up sold and bought into sexual slavery.

“People just don’t want to know about this issue – it’s hidden, it’s criminal, it’s perverse and yes, it’s happening on our own doorstep,” said Thompson. “Journey is a remarkable piece of collaborative, creative and confrontational art that profoundly challenges people’s perspective. Come and see for yourself and tell us if you agree.”

Who: You
What: “Journey” exhibit
Where: New York City (Washington Park East, off Washington Square Park)
When: November 9-15, 2009
Why: Because you care about women who are sold into the sex trade.

Can’t make the trip?

Check out some photographs of the NYC exhibit.

Take a virtual tour of the 7 stage of “Journey.”

Picture taken by Ximena R. inside exhibit.


Catherine G.
Past Member 7 years ago

porn sites and the sex trade prey on vulnerable people. To help fight this, please read the following petition www.thepetitionsite.com/1/close-down-free-porn-sites. This link takes you straight to the signature page, to read the whole petition click on the word letter highlighted in blue.
Thank you

Lynn Miller
Lynn M8 years ago

Human trafficking needs to be stopped NOW; everywhere in the world. Are we a civilized people or not. The money the military wastes alone could go towards this end. Maybe the end times are indeed near...

Mary F.
Mary F.8 years ago

This needs to be stopped by women. Find the ads that attract women to want to move to the UK, USA, or any country. Check them out to see if they are legitimate or into sex trade. The one who is running the contact or getting the girls into prositution are somewhere on the totom pole, but not at the top. Get the ones who are the promoters and getting the most money from this and prosecute to the full extent of the law. It is not stopping for no one goes after them. Fine them millions of dollars and put it in a fund to help women make a fresh start in a positive way. Money being taken away is a great deterrent for men who have lots of it. Start making examples of what they are doing in the dark so that their families, friends, employees,stockholders and customers can see the true ceo or whatever his position of influence is. They will clean up their act if they fear exposure after others have been caught and prosecuted.
There are women who have their own companies or businesses who can offer jobs to people who want to get out of their situation which is no good. Help them get on their feet so they can be contributing workers to the world and not sex objects. If women are freed from the sex trade industry, they need an alternative place to live and work, even temporarily. Some will need schooling to get them on their feet to be productive. We get indignent for many things, but time to defend our sisters who have no one on their side.

Sue Cannon
Sue Cannon8 years ago

There was a documentary about this so months back in the uk. The women that had been targeted had been offered waitress jobs in the uk. When they got here they were locked in the house and forced into prostitution. They had to earn their fares to go home or were blackmailed that their families would be hurt. They didn't see any of the money that was being passed from the male clients to the pimps. Makes you cry just to think of them being in a foreign country not knowing anyone and being abused and blackmailed this way. They do need a safe place and interpreters to help them when they escape from this sort of thing.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W8 years ago


Mary C.
Mary C8 years ago

Yes, legalize prostitution. It is after all, an act between 2 concentual adults. Whats the difference if the woman gets a few bucks or dinner and a movie?????

NOW, when it involves minors, life in prison.

Mary B.
May Brown8 years ago

It's really great that they're bringing this to light, because you don't hear of the problem often.

John Jayne
Past Member 8 years ago

Cities and towns can do something to make our streets safer for children. Namely, make the school day much longer so that parents can walk their kids to and from school and also have enough time in between to put in a full day's work at their jobs.

Sarah D.
Sarah D8 years ago

In addition to prostitution being legalized, in more states and countries, they should still encourage the workers to go to college and get a degree.

Sarah D.
Sarah D8 years ago

"I believe that legalizing prostitution would help end these sorts of things."

As long as the workers aren't forced into it, underage or being abused. There should also be licenses and other papers issued by the government and local law enforcement departments, and there should be checks done during the year to make sure everything's okay. They should also get regular doctor check-ups and be encouraged to use protection, and workers and clients should be screened, to help prevent the spread of STD's/STI's.