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Why I Fight For Freedom - Bella LaFreniere

Two years ago, I began my journey with Project Mona’s House as a Legal Intern, researching cases of women and girls experiencing double victimization. Double victimization is when an individual is first victimized by their trafficker or a purchaser, and secondly by the criminal justice system treating them as a criminal. Rather than being treated as a victim of human trafficking, women and girls are jailed for fighting for their freedom. I spoke with mothers and attorneys, I read countless articles and statutes, I sifted through some of the most visceral hate comments I’ve ever seen – and I came to the obvious yet gut wrenching realization: if we don’t find these survivors and uplift their voices, they will disappear into another statistic. 

Following my time as an intern, I began working as part of the daily Project Mona’s House team. I’m blessed to serve in a variety of ways, from outreach to social media – even just helping feed our Empowered Girls. And more than just the haunting statistics, (40.3 million people are entrenched in modern slavery), or the shocking headlines, (19 people were just arrested in a human trafficking sting in California this week), it's the people around me that drives my fight. 

The Empowered Girls show me day in and out how promising and capable our future leaders will be. Our amazing volunteer team reminds me of the power of community and collective change. My interactions with Overcomers keep me so inspired and grounded, whether I’m watching her speak with state legislators to fight for new laws or we’re dancing in the DMV because she finally got her driving permit. The women and girls of Project Mona’s House uplift me day in and out to continue the incredible work of fighting modern day slavery. 

And it’s not just for them, it’s for all the Ajahnae Smaughs, Alisha Burns, Jessica Hamptons, Delicia Carmichaels – any survivor out there whose story hasn’t been told. For the 55 kids who disappear from foster care each day, missing for over 50 days at a time on average. For the 48,800 women and girls killed each year whose truth will never be heard. If you have the ability to breathe, to speak, to uplift  then how can you not fight for freedom to shine on everyone? 

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