Trafficking survivor advocates for safety


Nadia Lee, human trafficking survivor and prevention assistant at Eden House, shares her story. Photo provided by Nadia Lee.

Lily Cummings

Nadia Lee was 26 when she came to New Orleans but while others flocked to the city for French Quarter Fest, Lee was brought to the city by pimps.

“To think that it’s not going on during festivals and other things would kind of be like turning the other cheek to it,” Lee said.

Lee said her pimps took her from her home of Mobile, Alabama and all across the Gulf Coast, until they eventually brought her to New Orleans. After the pimps, herself and another victim got into trouble with the law, she said she found herself in jail before eventually landing at Eden House, a safe house for trafficked victims in New Orleans.

Today, Lee calls herself a human trafficking survivor. After graduating from a two-year program at Eden House, Lee has been working as their prevention assistant and survivor leader.

“It’s important for me to get the message out, especially to young girls,” Lee said.

Maxine Kimbrell, a licensed clinical social worker and program manager, had come out of retirement to work at Eden House.

“The incidents of human trafficking, certainly, it’s an every day thing. It’s in every situation, in every city, every area of the country,” Kimbrell said.

According to Kimbrell, many trafficking incidents had gone unreported.

“It’s no way to tell number wise, but it’s something that you have to be in to know,” Lee said.

Regarding New Orleans festivities, Lee said to stay aware of your surroundings, to not go anywhere alone and to keep your phone on you with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number saved.

According to the International Labor Organization, 40.3 million people were trafficked worldwide in 2017. Of those 40.3 million, nearly 700 cases had come out of Louisiana, and that number rose in 2018 by nine percent, according to the Department of Child and Family Services.

Lee said that traffickers are aware of big events such as Mardi Gras and French Quarter Fest when the demand will be high.

“I fear especially around these times because you do have a lot of drinking and partying and they know where to go,” Lee said, “They know how to pick you out in a crowd and say ‘I’m going to get her’ and they do.”

“Traffickers are making their way here right now,” Lee said.