Anna Malika has a story full of deceit and pain. A story of lies and tears, but her story doesn’t define her today. Anna is so much more than her story. She is an overcomer.
Anna was adopted from Kolkata, India into an American family, but the safety that every child should be surrounded by was far removed from Anna’s upbringing. She experienced sexual, emotional and physical abuse by various people as she was growing up. All the abuse started to twist her concept of beauty and what her value lied in. She started to believe that she could only be beautiful and “worth it” if she was skinnier and not Indian.
The lies of her worth were amplified. Then, a 40-year-old man approached her telling her that she was special and beautiful. Being only in her late teens, Anna easily fell for his sweet words. Could he be the person to love and accept her for who she was? Little did she know that the “art project” he asked her to help him with, would be the source of her being trafficked and sexually exploited.
Anna was able to escape the pornographic world she became trapped in, but her struggles were far from over. Anna turned to drinking, self-harm, and eating disorders in order to cope. Over time, and by God’s grace, Anna started to realize that the path she was heading down, would be her fatal downfall. There were issues that she believed were gone, but in reality, were only buried. She wanted to be healed.
In the summer of 2011, Anna attended a program called Mercy Ministries. Mercy Ministries is a Christian residential program that assists young women with life-controlling issues. Anna allowed God to unearth the buried pains, and restore her mind, hear, and soul. She graduated from the program in February 2012.
Anna is now doing work with the local government in human trafficking law and policy making. She is also working as a survivor advocate. God has placed a desire in her heart to concentrate on the link between sex trafficking and pornography, as it relates to at-risk youth. She is working to finish her B.A. in sociology with a concentration in criminology and pre-law. Anna also hopes to someday start her own clothing line that will raise money to combat human trafficking. She is working with various clothing companies to sell retail, in order to raise funds for anti-human trafficking organizations, and other projects.
Anna says, “I am a new creation! None of the abuse, labels, or past thought patterns identify me anymore. The enemy can keep the guilt and condemnation! My chains are broken! I am FREE!” Anna has a story. It’s one of redemption, hope, and a future. Still, she is more than her story. She is an overcomer!
"Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story - those he redeemed from the hand of the foe!" Psalm 107:2
You are very passionate about fighting human trafficking. What got you involved?
I guess you would say my story gives me a passion for it, but I don’t really get how you can’t care about the topic once you hear about it. When I heard what human trafficking was, I didn’t realize I had been trafficked until later. All I knew was that I was intrigued by the topic and wanted to learn more. As I learned more I realized what had actually happened to me, but I think my passion came from how I am wired. I am always interested in topics that have to do with crime topics, and more recently, policy and legal subjects. I think it is really cool how God refines His vision for you as you grow, mature and heal.
What's your focus on this movement?
I have chosen to concentrate on the link between pornography and sex trafficking as it relates to law, policy, and at-risk youth. I feel we lack within our statutes concerning pornography and sexual exploitation. Currently it is often considered a violation of both one’s freedom of speech, and self-expression, if we take down sites such as backpage. I also want to fight to raise the age of protected minors in both federal and state statutes, from under 18 to under 21. One day separates ages 17 and 18, but evidently at age 18 they are mature enough to legally consent to being sexually exploited. These are a few of the many issues I seek to change within policy. I also want to educate young people on the ways that media is grooming them to make them more at-risk to enter the commercial sex industry.
The best advice for someone wanting to get involved is what?
Don’t get involved simply because you are passionate! Human trafficking is an awful crime and needs immediate attention, but take some time to see what God wants you to do. Your passion and sincere heart will only take the movement so far. I believe leadership starts with both a passionate and sincere heart but you need more than that –you must become a catalyst for change. I would advise someone to become an expert on the topic and attend as many trainings as possible before taking action. As you attend trainings you will understand your place in this movement.
I also think people need to understand that human trafficking has become extremely sensationalized. Don’t get me wrong, this crime is absolutely horrific and the pain these overcomers experience is terrible. I think after people learn more about what human trafficking looks like they will see how they can help best because it comes in many forms… not just, kidnapping and transporting people across borders.
Also, if you are an overcomer, get help before you try to help! You cannot lead people to where you have not been! I think it is easy for our stories to make us feel even more connected to the issue and more anxious to get involved. You won’t be able to lead people to restoration if you don’t have it for yourself.
You prefer the word 'overcomer' in place of 'survivor.' What is the meaning behind this for you?
First off I would like to say I have nothing against people who use the word survivor. I think it is a very empowering term. However, I prefer Overcomer because it causes the trafficking situation to become something that happened to you, and not who you are. I compare it to being in a car accident. The accident occurs and you are rushed to the hospital, you are now a victim of a car accident. After you are treated, and enter a healthier condition, you leave the hospital, go home, and talk about it constantly because it was a pretty recent and significant event that you SURVIVED. A year or so later, you still have to go to the chiropractor about every six months for checkups, but it not really what you talk about. However, now you remind your friends sometimes what can happen when driving at night and the danger of drunk drivers, but it isn't something you survived, you overcame it now. I feel this term has to do more with how God sees me and not what the situation made me.
Taking my own advice! I’m currently cutting back significantly in terms of speaking, and focusing on becoming an even greater expert on the topic of human trafficking and developing skills to take my role to the next level. I believe sharing your story is good for a certain period of time but it shouldn't be your whole platform. When I speak and share my story, I do bring awareness. However, I’m simply creating a content audience. We are always experts on our own story and they are very important, but they don’t make us an expert on the topic as a whole. I want to lead in a way that creates other leaders, not followers.
Photos of Anna in this Elegantees' design were taken for a fashion editorial shoot to portray a woman trapped in emotional bondage that lead into hope of total freedom.