Susan Jacoby, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) Volunteer Activist
Read the interview below with Righteous Crowd member, Susan Jacoby, about the incredible way she became involved with CAST.
What is the mission of CAST?
CAST is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that is working to put an end to modern slavery and human trafficking and dedicated to identifying and serving survivors of all forms of human trafficking through comprehensive, lifesaving services. Founded in response to the discovery of 72 Thai workers that had been kept for years in slavery and debt bondage in LA County, CAST has supported thousands of slavery survivors, both foreign nationals and U.S. born, through every phase of their journey to freedom from counseling, to legal resources, to housing, educational and leadership training and mentorship.
How did you get involved with this organization?
My involvement in CAST began with a crumpled note received from Ima Matul, a neighbor's young Indonesian housekeeper, with the words "help me" scrawled across it. She was told three years earlier, that if she traveled to California, she would have a paid job as a nanny. Instead, when she arrived in Los Angeles, traffickers took away her passport, and forced her to work as an unpaid domestic slave, subject to verbal and physical threats and abuse. I immediately looked for resources to help and was told about CAST. CAST helped devise a plan which involved whisking her off to CAST's safe shelter without my neighbor's knowledge. CAST saved Ima's life by providing her safety, trauma-informed care, counseling, education and the tools to rebuild her life.
What’s a story from working with cast that has inspired you?
When we met Ima Matul, she was emotionally and physically withdrawn, traumatized and barely communicative as a result of her three years of domestic slavery. As a result of the enormous support, counseling, education and training that CAST provided, Ima is now the strong, empowered Coordinator of the Survivor Leadership Program of CAST. She was recognized by President Obama at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative Conference for her advocacy work on behalf of all victims of human slavery and trafficking.
What has surprised you about working with CAST?
I was surprised to learn how common modern day slavery is in our own communities, and that domestic worker and sex slaves are not solely foreign born, but are the most vulnerable of the United States population--poor, runaways, and homeless. Domestic slaves work in residential homes, retirement homes restaurants, factories, construction, and agriculture. Many runaways and young girls who appear as prostitutes are actually sex slaves, ensnared by their traffickers posing as sympathetic peers through the Internet. I also learned there is a huge wait list of survivors of slavery who are seeking safety and shelter.
How would you connect the work this organization is doing to a Jewish value?
Jews were once slaves in Egypt. Jewish tradition compels us to help victims of slavery, especially as modern day slavery and human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal activity, with the majority of victims women and children. Slavery exists in our communities and we cannot stand idly by, another Jewish value.
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved?
Educate yourself on the issue (see castla.org) and raise awareness of this issue with others. Learn about signs to look for in your own community of domestic or sex trafficked victims and post the hotline number (1-888-539-2373) to call for suspected victims of slavery. Authorities encourage parents to talk to their minor children and teens about the dangers of meeting strangers online, as predators operate freely in cyberspace, posing as teens. Stay informed of bills in your state and lobby for funds for trafficked and slavery victims, who oftentimes are mistaken for prostitutes or illegal immigrants and prosecuted. Invite speakers on this issue to community events.
To learn more about CAST visit https://www.castla.org/