32 years old Bukola Oriala from Nigeria, an international human trafficking victim, rescued and restored in Minnesota, by Civil Society, spoke emotionally in her ordeal at a press conference held recently at the State Capitol.
Bukola, a former journalist herself, contributed also few articles to the African News Journal in her early days of coming to Minnesota, said she wanted to sit down with the paper and tell about her experience to prevent further damage to anyone in the community experiencing similar situation both men and woman.
ANJ: Tell us about yourself ?
Bukola: I am Bukola Oriola, 32, a Nigerian journalist who came to the US in 2005 to report the United Nation’s 60th anniversary and General Assembly. In Nigeria, I was an award winning journalist and responsible for publishing three pages of education weekly. I source for stories, edit, plan pages and see to the general aesthetics of the eduction pages.
ANJ: How did you guys meet ? & when did you come to the US?
Bukola: We met through his friend who introduced us to each other on the telephone while I was living and working in Nigeria.
My husband was the man whom I was married to traditionally in Nigeria but lived in the US. His family and my family agreed, as traditional marriage is an agreement between two families in Nigeria. My husband was not present, only his family members were present to represent him. Because, in Nigeria, sometimes either the groom or the bride is not present at the marriage ceremony. Other times, both of them are not present and the families would conduct a ceremony on their behalf.
ANJ: Tell us what happen?
Bukola: After my assignment at the United Nations my husband begged me to stay with him and promised to change my status from a work visa as a journalist to a spousal visa. I believed him and stayed but he did not fulfill his promise, rather he isolated me for two years, I suffered hunger, slavery and hardship in his hands during and after pregnancy. He neglected our son after birth. He did not care for his own child. I took care of our son like a single parent when his father was living with us in the home. He would not even provide clothing for his child. Whenever I tried to complain I get punished. I always look forward to Sundays to go to church because, I stayed home for up to three weeks sometimes without going out. I only peep through the window like a prisoner.
When he found out that I could braid hair he used me as a maid at one of his girlfriend’s shop in Brooklyn Park when I was pregnant. I braided hair while he collected the money. He complained that I was living in free house, eating free food, watching free TV, using free phone and Internet so I should count myself lucky to have these basic stuff in America.
He complained to his friends that I was not giving him enough sex and they called to harass me for not giving my husband enough sex and that I was behaving like an American woman. I became his sex slave.
ANJ: You said you almost died, how did it happened? And how did you escaped?
Bukola: I was devastated and traumatized to find out that he was a fraud. He had told me that he was divorced but was not. And, he only trafficked me in to use as a vessel to prove his manhood because he was on fertility medication. And, he had told me that his first marriage suffered for lack of children and that his first wife said she could not allow him ‘test’ medication on her. But I did not mind because I thought that I could have been in the same situation by taking medication in order to be fertile to bring forth children.
It hurt me more to see him ignore our son. Our son’s health deteriorated and it really bothered me as a mother.
He had constantly threatened me with the law by using police and immigration to harass me. I became depressed to the point that I could no longer see myself in the mirror and I thought only death could take me out of the slavery.
We escaped with the help of the public health nurse who referred us to the battered women shelter, Alexandra House after he had filed a false police report to put me in trouble with the law as he had threatened.
It was at Alexandra House that I was referred to a support group for immigrant women and refugees for immigration help because I was out of status.
Civil Society paid the immigration lawyer who filed my petition and I became documented and now have status to remain and work legally in the US.
ANJ: What is the condition between the two of you ?
Bukola: I don’t know anything about him. I am doing fine and my son’s health has improved greatly. I am speaking out to help other victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse because I did not know that there was help. I don’t want to see a woman or child die. The same message goes to men who have been trafficked into the US 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.
ANJ: What are your plans in the future?
Bukola: I hope to help others by using my experience and story. I have written a book on my experiences and now looking for a publisher so that everyone, including health practitioners, victims, law enforcement agencies, international organizations, human rights organizations and other relevant bodies can utilize it as a tool of rescue for victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse, most especially human trafficking.
I also want to go back to my career in journalism. I am looking forward to train people also on how to braid hair. Hair braiding is what I am doing right now to help support myself and my son to be able to stand back on my feet.
I however want to use this opportunity to thank the US government for their support of human rights organizations like Civil society in rescuing victims of torture and trafficking.
ANJ: Thank you, Bukola
Bukola: Thank you so much for taking your with me.
Last month, the federal government’s U.S. Health and Human Services Department awarded $100,000 to St. Paul-based victim advocacy group Civil Society. An organization that provide outreach and counseling services to Minnesota’s growing number of human trafficking victims.
Linda Miller, an attorney and Civil Society’s executive director, said the money will be sent to small nonprofits that identify victims of human trafficking and try to get them to seek help.
Minnesota is one of a dozen of States with the largest human and sex trafficking cases and the issue briefly gained headlines two years ago, in May 2007 when 25 traffickers were arrested in a Minneapolis prostitution raid. Miller said the Minneapolis house was providing sex to 60 men a day.
Human trafficking is illegal and inhumane, anyone experiencing please contact, civil society at email@example.com or call 911 or contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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