By: Richard L. Smith
Theresa Flores, a human trafficking survivor, delivered a powerful message of survival, hope, and activism to the upper school assembly at the Academy of the Holy Angels on February 7.Recounting her chilling experience, Flores revealed how a simple act of kindness from an elderly Black woman, whom she calls her angel, played a crucial role in her journey toward escape and healing.
This woman's intervention came at a time when Flores, left for dead after escaping a motel, had lost all hope.
Flores's ordeal began in her teenage years when she was coerced into a life of human trafficking by a group of men who drugged, assaulted, and blackmailed her.
Despite the terror and threats against her family, it wasn't until she was 17 and moved far from her Detroit suburb that she found freedom from her captors.
Her family remained unaware of her plight for decades, misunderstanding her disappearance as a teenage rebellion.
During her talk, Flores emphasized the pervasive nature of human trafficking, stating it as the second most prevalent crime in the United States and highlighting that it can happen to anyone, anywhere—even in plain sight.
She urged the audience to recognize the signs of trafficking and to be the "one person" someone could turn to for help.Flores underscored the importance of social media awareness, as it is the primary tool traffickers use to find victims.
In her nearly two decades of activism, Flores has founded the Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP) Project, which distributes soaps with the Human Trafficking Hotline number in high-risk areas and played a pivotal role in the enactment of the Theresa Flores Law in Michigan, removing the statute of limitations for survivors seeking justice.
Flores, who has authored five books, including "The Slave Across the Street," continues to share her story to honor the memory of Grace, a trafficking victim who died at 17.
Her advocacy extends to promoting Fair Trade products to combat trafficked labor and encouraging education and activism to end human trafficking.
The program, co-sponsored by the AHA Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the AHA Office of Mission & Ministry, not only aimed to educate students but also involved an evening session for parents.
It aligns with the Atlantic-Midwest Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame's focus on ending human trafficking, highlighting a collective call to action against this global issue.