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Thursday 21 March 2019
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New York attorney’s bid to stop sexual exploitation: Gospel to end trafficking

New York attorney, missionary and human trafficking activist Juanita Headley (right) and Ruchira Gupta, founder of anti-sex trafficking organisation Aapne Aap.
New York attorney, missionary and human trafficking activist Juanita Headley (right) and Ruchira Gupta, founder of anti-sex trafficking organisation Aapne Aap.

Juanita Headley may be a New York-based attorney but instead of living the high life she travels around the world and depends on the kindness of strangers to spread the word of the gospel and to help end human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Headley, founder of the organisation Changing Cases, is currently in Trinidad doing various speaking engagements and screening human trafficking film Sold.

Born in Britain to Jamaican parents Headley studied in Switzerland to become a chef from age 18 to 20 and had the opportunity to work with the United Nations for six months. She returned to the United Kingdom and after studying police studies, crime and investigation and forensic science for two years she decided to become a lawyer and took the bar in New York.

During early 2016 she volunteered with ECPAT-USA, the leading policy organisation in the United States seeking to end the commercial, sexual exploitation of children, on an anti-child pornography project and reviewed 200 cases.

“Really terrible cases,” she recalled.

She has visited the red light district and a strip club in the Philippines and has also worked in India, Cambodia, Vietnam visiting orphanages and speaking with prostitutes including men dressed as women. Headley, a born-again Christian, said her life’s purpose is to spread the gospel but she does not seek to convert them to Christianity but to love them and hug them, giving them their first non-sexual touch for the day or the week.

“I just want to make a difference.”

Headley said she is an unpaid lawyer and she receives accommodation, transport and food by people offering to her. She has slept on the floor of people’s homes and also on chairs and benches. She said most Christians believe the way she lives is crazy but she has never been robbed or raped.

She explained that God speaks to her and she is able to discern who is safe and who is not.

She said the fund-raising money she collects is only to pay her airfare and to pay tithes at her church.

Headley first came to this country in January 2017 in Tobago for a judges conference. After the conclusion of the conference another activist organised free accommodation in Trinidad in exchange for her appearing on the radio and television and speaking on human trafficking. She then went on to speak at local schools and on the radio.

“God brought me here.”

Headley said she wanted to educate and empower people to act by giving them the tools to make a difference. She said she has been very well received by people of different faiths and people of no religious faith. She stressed the talks were really needed here as the subject is not spoken about because it is taboo.

She said in this country there was abuse, incest and girls going missing.

“My desire is for them to stop going missing in the first place. They will not become vulnerable to be trafficked.”

Headley has made presentations at Metal Industries Company Institute of Technology (MIC), at I Care Christian Centre in Williamsville and in various media houses.

She will be in Tobago from January 31 until February 3 and is seeking opportunities for speaking engagements.

“Help me help your people.”

She said her desire is get people to say “yes” when someone, whether child or adult, ask if they can keep a secret and after they speak of abuse tell them that you have to report it to the police.

She expressed thanks to Pastor Bobby Boodram of Word of Faith Gospel Tabernacle in Williamsville for hosting her and providing donations. She also thanked Brian Nothnagel for his assistance with MovieTowne and Lisa Sadler from MovieTowne.

She has screened the human trafficking film Sold in the US and England and will be screening in Trinidad at MovieTowne tomorrow at 6 pm and on February 5. The film will also be shown at MovieTowne Tobago on February 1. Tickets are free but must be requested via email at Juanita.m.headley@gmail.com.

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