Friends, I am so excited to introduce you to Anna! When I first heard about her, I was actually humbled that I was able to virtually meet someone who has endured such a painful past. I couldn’t help but feel like I was getting a real-life look at a Law & Order SVU episode. It’s like meeting a survivor of a war or something. You always hear the stories, but it’s different when you make a personal connection with someone with that story. So I say all of that to say that I hope you enjoy hearing from Anna.
1. Hi Anna! Tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Anna Ptak and I am currently an international keynote speaker as well as an Overcomer and policy consultant in the movement to end Human Trafficking. I have conducted speaking tours in both New York and California. I have had the honor to have my story published internationally in editorials such as Asian Geographic and The Examiner.
By God’s grace, I was recently featured on the national talk show The Doctors and Univision’s Primer Impacto. In 2015, I showcased my ethical fashion collection “Freedom is the New Beautiful” with Elegantees during NYFW with garments made by Overcomers of sex trafficking in Nepal. I have guest lectured at the University of Malta on Child Trafficking Law and have trained numerous governmental agencies and law enforcement on human trafficking.
As a Police Consultant, I have lobbied for anti-human trafficking bills at the Virginia General Assembly and assisted in arguing and drafting bills concerning Human Trafficking including the Safe Harbor Law in NC. I have served as the guest speaker for many organizations such as for The National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Shared Hope International. In my spare time, I love spending time with my husband, and our adorable puppy, Liam Alexander.
2. Would you share your personal story as it relates to sex trafficking? Tell me about that experience and what it was like.
I was adopted from Kolkata, India into an American family, but the safety that every child should be surrounded by was far removed from my upbringing. I experienced sexual, emotional, and physical abuse by various people during my childhood. All the abuse started to twist my concept of beauty and what I found value in. I started to believe that I could only be beautiful and “worth it” if I was skinnier and not Indian.
The lies of my worth were amplified. Then, a 40-year-old man approached me telling me that I was special and beautiful. Only being in my late teens, I easily fell for his sweet words. Could he be the person to love and accept me for who I was? Little did I know that the “art project” he asked me to help him with, would be the source of me being trafficked and sexually exploited.
I was raped hundreds of times. He monitored everywhere that I went. For example, I would go to the grocery store and I would go to the next aisle. He would run and find me and say to stay with him because he wanted to be with me all of the time because he loved me. I would wake up on the kitchen floor naked. When I would ask him about what happened, he told me that I had been sleepwalking.
I think what is most important to note here is that I never saw any of this as abuse or control. I had no visible chains or bruises. Although rarely, I was still going to school and seeing my friends. I never saw anything that he was doing as abuse because of the things that I had observed growing up.
After a variety of events, I was able to secretly move in with a friend. A few years later, I met up with some other girls who knew him and they said he was asking them to post in sexual ways for his art project. I was so confused because I thought the art project was our special thing.
In 2009, I found out that he died of cancer. I got in touch with a family member and asked if I could go to his house to get something. She knew that I was talking about the pictures he had of me. When we met up, she handed me a surprisingly huge box. I opened the box and that is when I found out that he had made hundreds of copies of the photos. I was in complete shock. It was not until years later that I learned what human trafficking was. After more research, I found out that pornography was a form of human trafficking and was finally able to label my pain.
I turned to drinking, self-harm, and eating disorders in order to cope. Over time, and by God’s grace, I started to realize that the path I was heading down, would be a fatal downfall. There were issues that I believed were gone, but in reality, were only buried. I wanted to be healed and entered the doors of Mercy Multiplied in 2011.
3. You come across as such a confident woman! How have you or how are you healing from this traumatic experience?
Honestly, Jesus the only thing that I can give credit to when it comes to my healing process. I think that everything that we do is rooted in our decisions to either make it happen or let something happen. I began with looking at the lies that I believed about myself for so long: I was ugly. I was ugly if I had curves. I was not worthy of a compliment.
I went into God’s Word and saturated myself in His Truth. I learned that I am beautifully and wonderfully made, a new creation, and worthy of having a compliment all because of what God says about me. Obviously, there were also years of counseling involved. At Mercy Multiplied, I worked through each layer of abuse and pain that I experienced throughout my life. I always say it was the most wonderful thing, yet the hardest thing that I have ever done.
4. How do you use your story to fight against this injustice currently? What projects or coalitions are you involved with?
I have been speaking internationally and working in the anti-trafficking movement for a little over 6 years. I often make the joke that I am the Indian version of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. A large amount of my work is rooted in fashion and law. As I mentioned, I launched an ethical fashion collection with Elegantees in NYFW in 2015 where overcomers of sex trafficking in Nepal make my designs.
Since then I have been designing with ethical brands and bringing awareness about human trafficking in the fashion industry. I also do a ton of work in law and policy, both nationally and internationally. As a policy consultant, I assist in drafting legislation and argue laws in front of governmental bodies. I consult with several nonprofits and government agencies. And over the past few years, I have been working to establish the link between pornography and sex trafficking.
5. What advice do you have for women who may share a similar story?
I think that counseling is a great place to start. I strongly encourage women with a similar story to seek help first before speaking publicly. You cannot help others find healing if you do not have it yourself. I remember when I first started speaking and I was asked why I didn’t leave my trafficker. I could not answer the question because I did not understand how what he did was not my fault. Imagine if I was working with other Overcomers and could not help them get from point A to point Z, but could only make it to point M.
6. What steps can people take if they are passionate about fighting against this injustice too?
I cannot express this enough: research the issue in great detail before you get involved. I see so many people who see films conveying sensationalized and unrealistic ideas of human trafficking such as Taken wanting to get involved for the wrong reasons. Don’t get me wrong. I love the film!
What I am saying is don’t get involved because you are entranced by the idea of someone being kidnapped. People like this get involved for a few weeks and then drop out. Sadly, this happens quite often. If you are not one of these people, I encourage you to research a local organization and see what they need help with. You can also post facts about human trafficking on social media. You can find a ton of accurate information on Shared Hope International’s website.
7. How can my readers stay connected with you?
Right now my website is being updated, so, for now, you can connect with me via social media.
WOW! Reading Anna’s answers on how she overcame sex-trafficking, how Jesus brought her healing, and how she is using her story to help thousands of women is a story of impact. I am in awe of God’s faithfulness. There is nothing that He cannot do! What do you think of Anna’s story? Tell me in the comments below!
Hanha Hobson is an author, speaker, and the founder of Transparency Ministries. From published devotionals to empowerment workshops, she will stop at nothing to see women encounter God and she is passionate about teaching and equipping them to live a life of freedom. When she is not encouraging others or writing her heart out, she enjoys watching Grey’s Anatomy, eating Chickfila, and connecting with friends on Instagram. Come say hi!