The anti-trafficking campaign that went viral

by | Sep 29, 2020 | Feature Article

Jennifer Le

More than 2 million people have signed the viral #Traffickinghub petition online dedicated to shutting down Pornhub and holding its executives accountable, a campaign powered by Exodus Cry, an anti-trafficking organization endeavoring to break the cycle of commercial sexual exploitation and help its victims. While the petition garners massive attention, still, the fight rages on.

As founder of the #Traffickinghub campaign and Director of Abolition at Exodus Cry, Laila Mickelwait is channeling all of her efforts into fighting human trafficking. Her days are spent engaging in team strategy meetings, coordinating with other agencies and organizations, communicating with media, and speaking with victims of Pornhub, the website fueling this injustice, with no reliable system in place to verify that those in the videos it hosts are not victims of child rape, sex trafficking, and non-consensual abuse.

We connected with her recently to learn more about how the #Traffickinghub campaign is sounding the alarm on this issue.

What motivated you to join the fight against human trafficking and get involved with the Exodus Cry organization?

I grew up in a household where my father was very attuned to human rights issues. As a child in the Middle East, in the midst of war, he had first-hand experience with human suffering and injustice. As a result, my father dedicated his own life to alleviating suffering. He became a general surgeon, who over the years, saved many lives. Growing up in a home where human rights’ issues were front and center, made it something that I decided I wanted to focus on. I was first introduced to the issue of sex trafficking over a decade ago. Since then, I have put all of my attention toward ending that particular injustice.

What do your day-to-day responsibilities entail?

As the founder of the viral #Traffickinghub campaign to shut down Pornhub and hold its executives accountable for aiding sex trafficking, my days have been completely consumed with helping the campaign move forward and gain momentum in order to accomplish the massive goal…The most intense part of running a campaign like this is hearing from victims who have recently, and in the past, been victimized on Pornhub both as children and adults. It is heartbreaking to hear their stories of abuse at the hands of Pornhub and how Pornhub has immortalized their trauma, but also keeps me motivated to put an end to Pornhub’s complicity in mass sex trafficking, assault, abuse, and rape.

What sparked the inception of the #Traffickinghub campaign?

I have been fighting sex trafficking for over a decade and have been focused on the intersection between sexual abuse and pornography for the last 8 years. Anyone who investigates the porn industry will end up on Pornhub because it is the world’s largest and most popular porn site, and not only that, it is the 8th most visited website in the world. What I found out about Pornhub is that it is set up for exploitation, and is arguably the largest public collection of sexual violence evidence in existence. Pornhub being complicit in mass sex trafficking is the biggest sex crimes scandal the world has ever seen. I made all of this known in an op-ed published in February that gained a great deal of attention. People who were outraged at what Pornhub was doing called on me to start a petition, which instantly went viral.

 

Today, we have over 2 million people from 192 countries who have signed the petition. We have over 300 organizations who have endorsed the campaign. Protests are being organized around the world. Government officials are calling for federal level investigations into Pornhub and its parent company, MindGeek. Hundreds of media outlets have reported on the campaign. Victims are coming forward regularly. In addition, a 2-minute video we recently produced to expose Pornhub gained over 30 million views in one week.

How has leading such a large endeavor affected you personally?

It has been a whirlwind since the campaign went viral. I have been so grateful for all of the traction, support and momentum that we have gained toward the incredibly important goal of holding this mega-predator, Pornhub, and its parent company, Mindgeek, accountable for complicity in mass exploitation. Every advocate against trafficking hopes for the day when something they initiate takes off in such a widespread and viral way. No one could engineer a moment like this.

I don’t take that lightly. At this time, my entire life has become overtaken by the mission to shut down arguably the world’s largest purveyor of sexual violence—and I won’t stop until we prevail.

Do you think there is a link between porn addiction and sex trafficking?

Porn consumers fuel the demand that makes sex trafficking in pornography profitable for traffickers and organizations like Pornhub that enable and profit from the abuse. 

Without the demand, traffickers and those partnering with them like Pornhub, would go out of business. Anyone that cares about ending sex trafficking should stop using Pornhub or any Mindgeek-owned websites.

Some experts are warning the public that there’s been a surge in child sexual exploitation online and human trafficking during the COVID-19 crisis. Are you concerned about this? How is Exodus Cry attempting to address this issue?

Vulnerability of the victim is the factor that is present in all cases of sex trafficking. When vulnerability increases, such as with economic hardship, isolation, domesetic abuse, homelessness, etc., there is sure to be an increase in sex trafficking, which thrives on the abuse of vulnerability. Exodus Cry is seeking to combat and prevent commerical sexual exploitation by changing mindsets about the issue, changing laws that enable sex trafficking to flourish, and reaching out to those who are in situations of exploitation.

Right now, Exodus Cry is making a big impact by helping to take down Pornhub, which is the largest global criminal organization complicit in mass sex trafficking.

Unfortunately, many issues like sex trafficking often gets politicized and classified as a “right” or “left” party issue. Why should people cast aside their partisanship and join in on the fight to shut down Pornhub?

Fighting sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and participating in the Traffickinghub campaign to shut down Pornhub for complicity in mass sex trafficking is for everyone. It doesn’t matter your religion or lack thereof, your political affiliation, background, or ideology—we all agree that no one should be raped for profit on the world’s largest and most popular porn website.

How can our readers support Exodus Cry and the #Traffickinghub campaign and stay informed and updated?

Go to Traffickinghub.com to sign the petition. Then, you can sign up to get regular updates, represent the movement by purchasing a t-shirt, make a donation, and help spread awareness in your community. You can also follow @ExodusCry on social media to get up-to-the minute updates on the Traffickinghub campaign by following me on Twitter @LailaMickelwait.

Founder of #Traffickinghub & Director of Abolition Laila Mickelwait

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