This trafficking victim has launched a fashion line made by, and to benefit, other sex slaves
March 19, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – For most Americans, their teenage years are both complex and simple -- a combination of the transition to adulthood while still maintaining the innocence of youth.
For Anna Malika, that innocence was long gone. Childhood abuse led to self-harm and a sense that being of Indian descent made her inferior. And by the time she left high school, she was in an abusive, controlling relationship with a 40-year-old man who, unbeknownst to Anna, was mass-producing sexual photos of her.
After leaving the relationship, Anna engaged in further self-harm for years. She was only able to let go in 2012, after attending the residential Mercy Ministries program.
Now 29, Anna is studying sociology and criminology, even as she speaks around the world to improve anti-trafficking policies. Her testimony was critical to passage of an anti-trafficking bill in North Carolina.
More recently, Anna founded a clothing line that she has dedicated to helping trafficked women. She recently sat down for an email interview with LifeSiteNews.
LifeSiteNews: You've explained that you were trafficked by an ex-boyfriend. What happened, and how did you get out of the situation?
Anna Malika: I was working at a movie theater during high school. While I was working there, I met the 40-year-old projectionist. After hearing about my love for music, he approached me, offering free guitar lessons. Being in high school with no money, I was ecstatic and quickly accepted, not thinking anything of it.
During these lessons he told me things every girl wants to hear. "I love spending time with you," "you're beautiful," etc. As these lessons continued, we started a romantic relationship. Eventually, I was kicked out of my house for bad behavior. As I was still in high school I had nowhere to go, so the 40-year-old man said I should just come live with him.
In my head we were dating, so I saw nothing wrong with it. Based on the relationships I had seen as a child, this seemed normal.
In the beginning of living with him, nothing out of the norm happened. After a few months passed, he asked me to be a part of his "art project," and to be his number one model! Without any hesitation, I eagerly accepted and the "art project" began. The photos were innocent in the beginning and later became more sexual. I was forced to do unthinkable things. He monitored where I was and isolated me from my friends.
After a year and half, he began talking about engagement. I made it a goal to leave, since I did not want to marry him. Eventually, an opportunity arrived, and I was able to escape to live with a friend.
LSN: You've explained that your childhood was less than ideal, in certain respects. What happened that was problematic, and did this play a role in your human trafficking?
AM: Throughout my childhood I faced a lot of abandonment and abuse. I was emotionally, sexually, and physically abused as a child by various people in my life. I hated being Indian; I desperately wanted to be white. I thought if I were like everyone else, I would be wanted and valuable. I also developed an eating disorder, because I was taught that having curves equated to being ugly. I also self-harmed.
LSN: You began attending Mercy Ministries in 2011, and this program helped you to overcome the abuse that you received. Can you get into some detail on how this program helped you strengthen your relationship with God and overcome the damage of your past?
AM: Mercy Ministries is a free-of-charge residential program where girls with life-controlling issues choose to be there. While a mercy girl is in the program, she is taught how to make good choices that bring long-term change. She is also taught how to set boundaries, and taught daily life skills such as how to manage finances.
Each week your counselor gives you new challenges to help you grow. For example, I used to keep myself so busy so I didn't have to build close relationships. My counselor stopped giving me assignments, so I would build friendships with the other girls. I was also challenged to give two staff members a hug per day for a week.
I didn't think this would be hard until the first time I had to ask a staff member for a hug. I cried! It was the first time I was receiving love from a person that I knew would not hurt or take advantage of me! I was in their St. Louis home, and I will forever consider that my home. It was the hardest, most amazing thing I have ever done for myself.
I learned that I am beautifully and wonderfully made, worthy of good things, a daughter of The King. I remember when I realized I was righteous. I ran around the house screaming for joy saying, “I get it! I am righteous, because Jesus says that I am!" I will also never forget when I realized the abuse I faced throughout my life was not my fault.
God gave me a revelation that the abuse was not my fault, that I was a child and didn't know any better. Talk about a weight lifted off of my shoulders! The program lasts an average of six months. I was there for about six-and-a-half months, and graduated on February 9, 2012.
LSN: You are the founder of a clothing line that helps formerly trafficked women. How long has this program been in existence, and how does it help trafficked women?
AM: I recently launched my collection, Anna Malika Designs, during New York Fashion Week at the Andaz Hotel. My collection is sponsored by a fashion company called Elegantees. They are mentoring and teaching me about both business skills and how the fashion world works.
My clothes are made by Nepalese women who have overcome sex trafficking. We employ them, and pay a fair wage. The profits of my collection go to aftercare services that work with survivors.
My clothes are modest yet fashionable. For this specific collection, "Freedom is The New Beautiful," I used flowing fabrics, vibrant colors, and butterfly and pearl accents to represent we are a new creation no longer defined by our past wounds -- and that beauty is not a size. My clothes are modest yet fashionable, designed to promote the idea that women do not need to expose themselves to be considered feminine.
I am proud to announce that several new pieces are being launched this week, and can be purchased starting tomorrow. Check out the collection here as part of the expanding Anna Malika Designs collection.
Named after women who have had an impact on my life and my personal healing, they will be ready for purchase on Friday. Here are the six outfits:
Lindsey Dress: Lindsey is an inspiration. With a couture inspired sewing technique, the Lindsey dress empowers the woman who made it, and the woman who wears it! Also available in Lipstick Red;
Nancy Top: Nancy is a fireball for fashion, but her hard work requires simplicity. As Nancy pours into restoration daily, you too can dress in style and make a difference;
Windie Top: Windie is a basic with stunning details. Wear with jeans or slacks, with a bracelet or statement necklace. You'll be comfortable and edgy at the same time. Also available in Navy;
Emily Maxi Dress: Fun and Feminine, the Emily Maxi is great for day look or dinner out! Whether you are on a beach or at lunch the dress will stand out. Pair with statement jewelry and you will feel free and fabulous;
Keisha Skirt: Keisha's got wisdom and compassion. The skirt is sophisticated with a pop of femininity of lace. The gathering around the lace creates a flattering fitted silhouette; and
Heddie Top: With a touch of flair, the Heddie top is a universal piece. Flattering to the midsection it can be paired with pencil or maxi skirts for looks beyond the office.
LSN: How many women have you been able to help so far with your clothing line, and how can LifeSiteNews' readers help you in your mission?
AM: The mission of Elegantees and Anna Malika Designs is to help women who have escaped trafficking truly overcome what they have endured. We cannot do that alone.
Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!
Anyone can buy clothes at AnnaMalika.com. If you don't feel the clothing is your style, pass it on to a friend or buy something as a gift. In my collection, there are several pieces that are great for brunches, bridesmaids dresses, and for the office. I also have one couture gown that can be custom-made!
You can also pray for me! Working in the anti-human trafficking movement, although rewarding, is strenuous and can be dangerous.
I am also available to speak at events. If anyone is in need of a speaker, they can always contact me.
In addition to checking out the clothing line -- which is necessary, as we cannot help women and fund aftercare services if there is no one purchasing the clothes -- people can donate to help the women. Donations can be sent by contacting me.
In addition to my clothing line, I mentor young women who have come out from abusive situations. Previously, I had only focused on speaking in churches and the policy and legal arena. I have also helped direct service organizations develop curriculum for their own programs.
I have also focused heavily on policy. For example, the North Carolina Safe Harbor Act was passed, because I gave my personal testimony.
I trust God to move the hearts of people. My job is to simply open my mouth and pray that God speaks through me.
LSN: Have you been able to forgive those who have hurt you?
AM: I would have to say yes. Forgiveness is a daily choice; it has nothing to do with how you feel. If you wait to feel like you should forgive someone who hurt you, you won't ever forgive them. Anger is not what pushes forgiveness, it is choosing to release that pain. I think people forget that forgiveness does not excuse the actions of the person who hurt them, but it allows you to move forward.