Changemaker2009: Bukola Oriola Advocate for trafficking victims
"There is help out there and all they need to do is to make a phone call to be free from slavery and torture." - Bukola Oriola
by Kathy Magnuson
"I am going to stand up for these people and begin to make a change. If I keep talking and talking and talking gradually people will begin to listen and victims will begin to come out." That determination led Bukola Oriola to speak publicly and to write the book "Imprisoned, The travails of a trafficked victim," telling her own experience.
Oriola, 33 years old, came to Minnesota from her native Nigeria in 2005. She expected to continue her journalism career and pursue a new life here, but her days quickly became filled with emotional abuse, control and rape. As a victim of trafficking, she was threatened not to speak to anyone. She did not know how to drive, and mass transit was not readily available. She had limited food and clothing for herself and her son. She worked long hours, being able to hide only some of her earnings for herself. Because her immigration paperwork had not been filed, she was threatened with being deported and having to leave her son behind. She fell into depression. Oriola eventually escaped her situation with the help of a public health nurse. She went to a battered women's shelter and received counseling and legal advice.
Now Oriola raises awareness about trafficking. She speaks to groups and has published her book to assist others. "I am speaking out to help other victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse because I did not know that there was help," she said. "I don't want to see a woman or child die. The same message goes to men who have been trafficked into the U.S. and suffering in the hands of their traffickers. There is help out there and all they need to do is to make a phone call to be free from slavery and torture."
Oriola is deliberate in using her real and full name. "You can know it is real. It is not fiction or a movie. I am not telling someone else's story. This is my own story," she said. "Those who are suffering can know that this is true and get help. If I got help, they can get help."
In "Imprisoned," she wrote, "Don't be a statistic ... Make a phone call to the police, shelters or any organizations that provides help. Those people at the receiving end of the phone are there for you and not against you. ... [I am] glad to let the world, especially immigrant women, know that there is help. I made it and any woman can make it, too."
Make Change: Are you a trafficking victim? Or, do you see suspected trafficking? Call Minnesota's Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-7-SAFE-24 (1-888-772-3324) or 651-291-8810.