‘I was crying’

Sex trafficking activist speaks out after horrific attack on one of her rescue facilities

Co-Founder of Prajwala Sunitha Krishnan. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Acclaimed activist Sunitha Krishnan is embroiled in an ongoing battle with sex traffickers who continue to organize retaliatory attacks on her and her staff, as well as the women and infants she rescues. Most recently, a group of women posing as sex trafficking victims shattered windows at a nursery outside Hyderabad, in southern India. The facility was filled with babies and the assailants attacked the staff with shards of glass — injuring some of them severely.

“As I was sitting here, it suddenly sank in my brain: What if one of the children — what if one of them is hurt? I crashed completely. I was crying and crying and crying,” she told Kai Shultz in an interview for The New York Times. Fortunately, none of the babies were harmed.

Krishnan, the winner of one of India’s highest civilian honors and the longtime leader of Prajwala, has been working with the organization to rescue women and children from sex traffickers for decades. The rescue facility that was recently attacked can host up to 1,200 girls, providing them not only with safety and food, but also education and training so that they can find work to provide for themselves. Krishnan says that Prajwala has been able to remain in contact with 86 percent of the 20,000 women and children the group has rescued — proving “to the world that it is possible to change.”

Krishnan herself is no stranger to assault — at the age of 15, she was sexually assaulted by eight men while working on a literacy campaign in a village. And since she started her advocacy work, she said she has been assaulted 17 times, dodged an attempted acid attack, and witnessed the murder of one of her staff. Speaking with The New York Times, she explained why her work was proving so successful at combating sex trafficking, and elaborated on the difficulty of trying to help young women and girls who often have lost the ability to trust.

Krishnan has been a guest on the Women in the World stage several times over the years and is perhaps best known for her controversial “Shame the Rapist” campaign, in which she collected footage of Indian men shamelessly raping women and then uploaded that footage to the internet for the world to see, while blurring out the victims’ faces to protect their identities. At the 2015 Women in the World New York Summit, Krishnan talked about what motivated her to to begin the campaign. “The way in which these men were flaunting this inspired me to start the ‘Shame the Rapist Campaign,’ she said, referring to the brazen practice of men sharing videos with their friends that show themselves raping women. “The impunity of the act was shocking. Enough is enough. We cannot tolerate this anymore. They need to be shamed,” she said. Below watch a one-on-one interview with Krishnan recorded moments after her appearance onstage at the 2015 Summit.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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