JUANITA HEADLEY wants to open a bakery in TT to hire men and women who have left the sex industry and ex-convicts. People who are homeless but of sane mind.
Why? “Because my God believes in second chances and so do I,” she said.
Headley, a US attorney, has been visiting TT spreading her gospel on human trafficking.
She first came to TT last year to speak at a judge’s conference on human trafficking at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort, Tobago.
It was when she visited the Philippines in 2014 that she was first exposed “hands-on” to sex trafficking. She spent six weeks there and after leaving decided that she wanted to get more involved in this. Headley does work around the world in places like India and the Philippines through her organisation Changing Cases, which was founded in 2014. Changing Cases, its website says, is an “international organisation dedicated to the eradication of homelessness and sexual exploitation through educating and empowering the general public on human trafficking, creating safeguarding tools for children, researching legal issues, and assisting in investigations and rescue planning.” She is currently working on having the organisation registered in TT.
Her own experience with sexual abuse when she was a child factored into her fight against human trafficking. “As a result of what I went through, I feel that that dictated the course of the journey that I took.”
Headley has spoken at Servol, churches and other organisations like the Police Youth Club about human trafficking and her faith.
“The kind of messages I bring is unique based on my story, my journey.”
The lectures she gives are “about child abuse, incest, pornography, prostitution and child trafficking. I touch very briefly on labour and begging, which is a form of trafficking but mainly sex trafficking.”
Her intent is always about educating and not awareness since she believes awareness “is knowing and doing nothing.”
“I talk about incest, stories about abuse, stories about trafficking. Stories that I hear first-hand in TT and overseas.”
Besides giving lectures, Headley recently wrote a book entitled Can You Keep a Secret, which promotes one of her main messages.
“I have a huge slogan that I utilise when I speak in my presentations and that is, can I keep a secret? That is the most important message I can teach my audience. Whenever somebody says that to you, in my opinion, having been abused sexually for six years of my life, I believe you need to say ‘yes’ with your mouth and ‘it depends’ with your head. Whenever a person, young or old, comes up to you and says, ‘can you keep a secret?’, it is a cry for help.”
She also plans to sell T-shirts with the slogan Can You Keep a Secret because she wants people to understand the importance of “yes”.
The majority of profits will go to supporting the work of Changing Cases and opening its bakery, she said.
“I want people to look forward to that release because that is going to provide them with the hard copy of the information I share verbally. It is a written copy of my presentation. It shares my story and my journey,” Headley said.