A Q&A with Laura Lederer

The new Senior Director for Global Projects on Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State offers sobering information and empowering hope.

Dr. Laura Lederer is standing on a stage at Vanguard University, a small Christian college in Southern California. She's telling the group of students, media representatives, and ministry leaders, gathered for a sex-trafficking conference, about her wake-up call to the problem of sex trafficking: the story of Rosa.

"Rosa was 13 when she was trafficked to the U.S. from Mexico," Laura begins, then recounts the story of a poor, small-town waitress who jumped at a family acquaintance's promise of more money for her parents and nine siblings if she took a better job across the U.S. border. One Friday evening, Rosa and girls from neighboring towns were driven overnight through the desert. Then they walked four days and nights into Brownsville, Texas, where they were driven to a series of trailers in Florida. There a big, burly man told them he'd purchased them for $10,000 each, a debt they'd have to work off as prostitutes. "Rosa was a virgin," Laura explains. "She cried and begged, 'I want the restaurant job.' 'There's no restaurant job,' the man told her, 'only this.'"

When Rosa refused to prostitute herself, a group of men gang-raped her and left her in a trailer for three days without food and water until she complied. So for the next six months, Rosa was forced to service 10 to 20 men a day on weekdays, 20 to 40 on weekends. She was twice impregnated (the men often didn't use the condom that served as their $20 "ticket" to buy some time with Rosa) and twice forced to abort. Men with guns guarded the girls 24 hours a day.

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