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Survivor of human trafficking to share her story at 90th anniversary program
Posted 02/10/2015 02:16PM

By Leslie Menocal PhotographyA survivor of human sex trafficking will share the harrowing story of her abduction and subsequent escape as part of the 90th anniversary lecture series at Misericordia University that is being held to detail and denounce human trafficking around the world.

The program will feature Shandra Woworuntu, an Indonesia native who is the founder of the non-profit organization, Mentari - Survivorof Human Trafficking Empowerment Program, in New York City, N.Y., and Los Angeles, Calif. She also serves New Jersey as a commissioner on human trafficking and advocate of social justice, and lobbies for legislative change in Washington, D.C.

The lecture, "Human Trafficking – Modern Day Slavery," will be presented by Campus Ministry on Tuesday, March 17 at 12 p.m. in the Huntzinger and Alden Trust Rooms 218-219 of Insalaco Hall.

The lecture is open free to the public. It is one of a series of 90th Anniversary events being held during the 2014-15 academic year to address the critical concerns of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, the order that founded Misericordia as an all-women's college in 1924. The Sisters serve the underprivileged around the world and focus their efforts on a list of social justice concerns that include the rights of women and children, earth sustainability, immigration reform, non-violence and anti-racism.

At age 25, Woworuntu was a college graduate in Indonesia with a degree in finance and bank management. She did not consider herself as vulnerable or at risk of being trafficked. As manager of the Treasury Department of the Korea Exchange Bank in Indonesia, she specialized in money market trading and was a successful financial analyst. She also was an avid human rights activist who spoke out on behalf of labor rights.

When political turbulence erupted, she lost her job. Looking for an opportunity to work in the United States where she thought she would be free of danger, she responded to an advertisement for a job that promised a six-month position in the hotel industry.

Not long after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, Woworuntu realized that she had been trafficked. Her identification and passport were taken away from her and she was transported at gunpoint to a brothel and forced into the underground sex business in New York. After many attempts, she escaped her kidnappers by jumping out of a bathroom window in Brooklyn. Forced to survive without money or shelter, she eventually met someone who connected her to law enforcement and she received a referral to Safe Horizon, a victim assistance agency in New York.

Woworuntu exposed the criminal trafficking enterprise to federal and local law enforcement authorities. The traffickers were brought to justice and prosecuted. She has dedicated her life to ensuring a life free of violence and captivity for people like herself. She lectures to raise awareness and to make sure people do not fall into the same situation.

She recently launched an international program under Mentari in collaboration with Cause Vision, a program that produces media for under-informed communities, to publish "Impian Dewi" (Dewi's Dream), an educational comic book for Indonesian children regarding human trafficking.

For additional information about the lecture, please contact Christine Somers, D. Min., M.S.W., director of Campus Ministry, (570) 674-6314; csomers@misericordia.edu. For more information about Misericordia University, please call (570) 674-6400 or log on to www.misericordia.edu.

Founded and Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, Misericordia University is Luzerne County's first four-year college and offers 34 degree programs on the graduate and undergraduate levels in full- and part-time formats. Misericordia University ranks in the top tier of the Best Regional Universities – North category of U.S. News and World Report's 2015 edition of Best Colleges and was designated a 2015 Best Northeastern College by the Princeton Review.


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