How human trafficking victims can fight back

Story highlights

  • Cecilia Flores-Oebanda says human trafficking victims can fight back and find new lives
  • But they need safety and security after they are rescued, she says

Cecilia Flores-Oebanda is the founder and director of the Visayan Forum Foundation in the Philippines, which helps rescue and rehabilitate trafficked women. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

Manila, Philippines (CNN)Our safe house for human trafficking victims in Manila was recently attacked. The attackers threw rocks, pounded on the gates and cursed at social workers. Despite an increased police presence in the area, the group returned a few days later and left with 16 women who were sheltering at the house.

"You don't know who you're messing with. Everyone will be killed, even babies!" the attackers yelled as they forced open the gates. They were aided by a masked man with a gun, dressed as a police officer.
The other women at the shelter barricaded themselves in the dormitories, clutching their martial arts training sticks for protection. Staff members risked their lives to stop the intruders from getting that far.
    In what seems like a coordinated attack, assailants also stormed a government shelter in an attempt to kidnap other trafficking survivors.
    Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, of the Visayan Forum Foundation, receives the 2005 Anti-Slavery Award.
    Our safe house is home to women and girls who have endured harrowing abuse and who are fighting legal battles against traffickers. Here, we offer them counseling, medical and legal assistance, and access to education and skills training.
    The women and girls in our care are afraid that the attackers will come back. It is unforgivable for trafficking survivors to be further traumatized. We are inspired by their courage. Because of them, we cannot and will not give up.
    This brazen attack was a striking reminder that there are no piecemeal solutions to human trafficking.
    Globally, more than 20 million individuals are in forced labor, according to the International Labour Organization. A United Nations report says 70% of trafficking victims are women and girls. And the traffickers are continually innovating. They have now capitalized on high-speed Internet access to force children to perform live sex acts in front of a camera for a paying audience.
    This crisis can only be