OLD CHATHAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A woman kidnapped from Africa and brought to Columbia County in a human trafficking operation is sharing her story on Thursday.
The Columbia County Sanctuary Movement announced that the unnamed woman will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. June 18 to discuss her struggle and demand the local trafficker be held accountable. Zoom will broadcast the teleconference, which will also feature County Supervisor Linda Mussman, plus a domestic violence advocate from Community Action of Greene County.
The woman says she survived nearly 20 years of abuse at the hands of her trafficker, who kidnapped her, exploited her, and raped her and members of her family. She says that local, state, and federal agencies have repeatedly failed to help, take action, or protect the woman and her family.
At 18, the woman was sold to a wealthy American in West Africa after she very vocally opposed marrying him. She was locked in a room in her village for four days with little food, then abducted to another town. She was raped on the night of her forced marriage in November 2001, and forcibly relocated to the U.S. the following April.
The man next trafficked her mother, sister, and niece. He forced them into back-breaking physical labor on the “family farm” in Old Chatham while continuing the pattern of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse for years.
She escaped the trafficker’s clutches in 2017 and, with support from the local community, divorced him and filed a restraining order. She says government agencies and officials dismissed her story as a “complicated divorce,” owing to her unnamed trafficker’s status and local influence.
The unnamed survivor is seeking a formal criminal investigation into her abuser, rapist, and trafficker, who still holds legal guardianship over the woman’s sister and niece. “I am appalled that a court would consider giving him custody over my minor-aged children,” she says.