Melissa was a victim of human trafficking, and now helps other women

human trafficking
Photo credit: Studio040/Lucia van der Ven

Eindhoven-based Melissa Meerzorg is working against human trafficking. As an expert by experience, she works with NEOS* to help women, and it is needed. Last year there were again more reports of human trafficking than the year before, according to a national report.

In 2021, there were more reports of human trafficking than the previous year, according to the Centrum tegen Kinderhandel en Mensenhandel (centre against child and human trafficking, CKM). It is also a problem in Eindhoven. Organisation NEOS is working with Lumens Eindhoven on the Safe Changes program to help women who were victims of human trafficking.

Melissa Meerzorg, as an experience expert at NEOS, knows how important that work is. “It’s very hard to get out of that world”, she says. “But especially not to fall back into it. That’s why it’s important work to be able to talk to someone who has been through the same thing”.

Social media
Victims from the study reported to Chat Met Fier (chat with pride), an organisation with a website where they can report anonymously. The internet can help find victims, but social media also brings the dangers. “Ten years ago, it was a lot more work. It was a whole process for loverboys to find girls. Now all that effort is no longer necessary”, Melissa explains. “You just go to a hotel with someone once and they put one camera. Before you know it they force you into it”.

Taboo
According to Melissa, the most important thing is to talk more. “There is a big taboo on the subject, which makes it hard for victims to talk about it and tell their story.” She herself was a victim for many years. That’s why she thinks the project is so important. She sees how important experience is. “It’s easier to talk to someone who has been through it themselves. I am very honest about my story”.

The Onzichtbare Slachtoffers van Mensenhandel (invisible victims of human trafficking) report shows that these are often children who are not yet known to institutions. It involves criminal or sexual exploitation. Victims can tell their stories anonymously through the website chatmetfier.nl.

Source: Studio040

Translated by: Bob

*Neos is a regional organization for social care, women’s shelter, assisted and protected living and for restorative support. Neos works together with various partners such as neighborhood teams, authorities and educational institutions.

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