Author Sibel Hodge has graciously spared some time to participate in an interview. The topic of conversation is, sex trafficking, and the process Sibel went through creating her novella, Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave.
This novella has been listed as one of the Top 40 Books About Human Rights by Accredited Online Colleges.
Mini-Review: Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave
Elena is 22 year’s old and has been kidnapped by the sex mafia. She’s threatened by her captors that if she tries to escape, they will kill her family. The need to keep her daughter, Liliana, safe is the only thing that keeps her going.
Read the extended review here.
Interview with: Sibel Hodge
Spoiler Alert If you haven’t yet read Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave.
- What was the initial inspiration for this story?
I normally write light-hearted, fun books, so this novella is something very different for me.
About five years ago I watched a mini-series about girls from Eastern Europe who’d been trafficked. It haunted me for a long time, and then gradually it faded from my mind and I got on with my life. Then a little while ago I was sitting in a doctor’s surgery waiting for an appointment and picked up a magazine. Inside, was the story of one women who’d been trafficked. It made a chill run through me, and I realized that in those five years, I’d never heard anything in the media about it.
That got me thinking, and I started researching other victim’s stories online. They were horrific, heart breaking, gut wrenching, and I knew this was a subject that, despite being such a global problem, a lot of people are unaware goes on. I really wanted to do something to raise awareness into the subject and Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave was born.
Although the book is fictional, it’s inspired by these victim’s stories, and is a very sad global reality. In 2007 the US Department of State carried out a Trafficking in Persons report. The statistics shocked me to the core: 700,000-800,000 men, women and children trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80% of which are women and girls, and up to 50% are minors. The figures will be a lot higher four years on.
And one of the truly scary things is, most people think it only affects third world countries, but it’s going on right under your nose. The US Department of State estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States alone each year.
- How much research did you do, and what were some of your findings?
Trafficked is based on many different experiences of trafficking victims. I did my research with their stories in books, online, and through various media channels. The findings were heart-breaking. Even if a victim does manage a way out of her nightmare, the road to recovery is a long one. You can’t wipe away the trauma of being trafficked in just a few months. What was scary was the sheer number of people trafficked, and that it’s going on right under our noses.
- There is a captor which the narrator Elena calls, The Rapist. Was the decision to use this as his identifier within the narrative a difficult one to make, considering the overall circumstances are confronting as it is?
I think it was the obvious choice for Elena to identify him as The Rapist. He’s not a human being to her because of everything he does to keep Elena and the other girls in line. I think by depersonalising him by calling him The Rapist somehow makes it easier for her.
- Presenting the narrative in the form of a journal makes the journey the reader takes with the narrator a more vivid and confrontational one. Was it always your intention to write it in this form, or did you experiment with a more all-seeing viewpoint of portraying this subject?
I always wanted to write it in diary form because I felt it would have more impact. I wanted Trafficked to be gritty, hard hitting, and tear-jerking. And I wanted it to make people really stop and think about this subject. I chose to write it in the form of a diary so the reader really feels every emotion – the fear, beatings, horror, desperation, hope, and faith. I wanted you to experience the ordeal through the eyes of all the Elena’s out there.
- There are a number of women captors participating in the trafficking of sex slaves, both in reality and in this narrative. Do you have any thoughts on why these women could possibly be a part of this trade, other than for financial gain?
I think financial gain is obviously a big reason, but some of these women have been victims of crime or trafficking themselves. It always seems much worse when women are involved in crimes like these. Women are supposed to be nurturers and compassionate, and to find other women actively procuring victims to exploit is very sad. At the very least, they should be able to empathise with the girls who are trafficked.
- Leading up to a night working at a brothel, Elena writes: “My mind will be raped as well as my body.” What are your thoughts on the struggles faced during recovery from this type of trauma, when a victim of sex trafficking escapes and attempts to reassimilate into normal life?
The struggles are huge. As well as physical problems from mistreatment there are many psychological scars and issues to deal with. Anxiety, fear, anger, grief, depression, post-traumatic stress, possible substance dependency as a way to escape to realities of what they’ve suffered, plus housing, relocation, and possible asylum problems. It’s a long list of problems that face women who’ve escaped, and it’s essential they get access to professional help to assist them on their healing journey.
- Why did you decide to end this story on a positive note, after Elena has found a sense of freedom and is reunited with her daughter? A number of films I’ve seen that focus on sex trafficking usually end on a positive note, with the victims being saved. Do you think if you had ended this story differently, perhaps with Elena dying, it would have had a more dramatic impact?
I ended the story on a positive note because everybody needs hope. Without hope, there is nothing left. But although it is in some ways positive, Elena is far from at the end of her journey and has many years of struggling to get over the trauma of this modern-day slavery.
- During the writing phase, were you at any time affected mentally and/or emotionally by the reality of the topic of sex trafficking, which caused you to stop writing, or spur you on to complete the manuscript?
Yes, there were many times when I did cry while writing the book. It’s a very emotive issue, but it’s a story that really needs to be told.
- By telling this story, what were you hoping to achieve other than wider awareness of the prevalence of sex trafficking in our society in both developed and third world countries?
Yes, I did want to raise awareness, and I know from some comments that it’s spurred some people on to want to take action themselves. Together, we can all do something to help, whether it’s recognizing girls who could’ve been trafficked (because there is a lot of misconception about prostitution and brothels), to explaining what could happen to your daughters or nieces to make them careful. It was listed as one of the Top 40 Books About Human Rights by Accredited Online Colleges, and I know it has been the subject of coursework and some discussions in schools. Change begins with one person knowing what is happening and wanting to do something positive about it. As an author, I am able to use my voice to highlight something that I feel very strongly about.
- How much higher do you think the statistics of the number of people trafficked for the purpose of working as sex slaves will need to rise before there will be large-scale action taken to significantly lower those numbers?
As you can see from the statistics I quoted, the number is already high. In the back of the book I’ve listed many organisations that deal with trying to combat trafficking, and provide help for girls who have been trafficked, but we all need to put pressure on our local and national governments to do something about this horrific crime.
The most important message here is the need for greater awareness about this crime.
Some organisations that deal with sex trafficking include:
If you’d like to learn more about Sibel Hodge, you can visit her website.
Or connect with her through:
Thanks so much to Sibel for participating in this interview.