Let there be Some Light, Stop the Traffick and Oree Freeman

Working with the Stop the Traffick team at Downey High School on Jan 30, Devin Ayala, 11 (right) asserts how being a part of the team has opened his eyes to reality in human trafficking. “Awareness was my main concern,” Ayala said. “Before the event, I was quite unaware of just how frequent sex trafficking happens, especially so close to me.”

Adrian Soto, Writer

In respect to January’s representation as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Stop the Traffick scheduled a human trafficking survivor to speak about their experience on Jan. 30 at the Downey High School Theater during A and B lunch.  Oree Freeman, the human trafficking survivor, spoke to students about her experience being trafficked in Orange County.


The DHS theater was full of students interested in what Freeman had to share. During the presentation, students entered the full theater as she continued to speak.  With the end of lunch approaching, a line of students formed around her as she opened herself up to individual questions.


Senior Dana Saldana was the last person to ask Freeman a question before the first lunch (A lunch) was over.  This was one of Saldana’s first times learning about the human trafficking issue which drove her to know more.


“I wanted to see what it was all about,” Saldana said.  “At first, going in I didn’t have that much knowledge so hearing the person speak, a survivor, enhanced everything I knew.  Knowing that anyone can be a trafficker or anyone can try to get you… It can be a student, a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, anything.  I started to see the community and the school not as safe as I thought it was.”


Freeman works with the Orangewood Foundation to spread awareness and aid to people susceptible to human trafficking.  She has attended multiple meetings in Sacramento to push laws that stop human trafficking and has traveled to various schools to speak about her experience.  Along with James Carson, the man who helped her escape, she has built a safe house for trafficked girls to go to and stay.


Freeman, mother and human trafficking survivor, seeks to raise awareness in high schools about the threat she survived.  She wants to help out girls like her, so she goes out of her way to do presentations like the one at Downey High School.   


“It feels really good,” Freeman said.  “I am able to share my experiences with students that have possible, or maybe have experienced similar things at the beginning.  It is not uncommon that kids have felt bullied and feel like they don’t belong and so it is always a good thing to share that and to share that there is always hope, always a light at the end of the tunnel.  There are girls just like me, there are girls just like us that are out there, that need someone to be there and to be that voice. Now too that I have my daughter, it is a huge thing trying to help the next generation.”


During the presentation, Freeman and Carson explained the nature of this upsurging crime.  Freeman herself was trafficked from the ages of eleven to fifteen by someone she thought she could trust.  After having a hard time growing up in a home where she felt undervalued, this man became her “knight in shining armor”.  There are “Romeo pimps” that offer money, there are “CEO pimps” that offer success, and “parent pimps” that produce the father figure some girls are searching for.  However, all pimps have the same goal: get young woman/children into the “life”. This “life”, as Freeman called it, forced her to sleep with multiple men a night with no pay or benefit for herself.  Eventually, she found Carson who helped her escape.


Carson is the main organizer of the Orangewood Foundation and Freeman’s close friend.  He has been helping a lot of children escape the “life”, and wants to continue to do so into his retirement.


“I’ve worked with children being sold for twenty-five years in LA county; on Figueroa, on Wester, wherever,” Carson said.  “And I know everybody at this school is susceptible and might be a victim. Some of them are being trafficked. You have kids in this school who are being trafficked, I would bet my money on it.  We got introduced to Stop the Traffick four/five years ago and it was just an amazing energy that the kids in that group are just amazing, they are forty strong. They’ve helped the young women we’ve helped rescue: literally helped them, written encouraging cards and brought them gifts for Christmas and it is just amazing.”


Stop the Traffick organized this opportunity for Freeman and Carson to speak about trafficking.  Since their establishment as a club, they have hosted a variety of events to inform students about this ever-increasing crime.  Ms. James is the advisor of the Stop the Traffick club and welcomes anyone interested in helping put a stop to human trafficking.  The club meetings are every Thursday after school at B216.