Shandra Woworuntu and Katie Ford

Recorded April 15, 2021 Archived April 13, 2021 40:36 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv000655


Shandra Woworuntu (44) talks with her friend and mentor, Katie Ford (65), about her decision to find work in the US so she could escape the violence in her home country of Indonesia. Shandra talks about how her new job prospect was, in reality, a front for a sex trafficking operation and recalls how she escaped, got help, and has become an advocate for other survivors.

Subject Log / Time Code

Shandra remembers meeting Katie at an advocacy event.
Shandra talks about her upbringing in Indonesia and the violence in her community that led her to search for work in the US.
Shandra talks about how she looked for work to escape the violence she was seeing in her country.
Shandra remembers landing in New York City, being separated from the larger group she traveled with, and passed between people until she arrived at the location where she was trafficked.
Shandra describes the house she was brought to and remembers changing in the bathroom when a man interrupted so that he could see her naked.
Shandra describes the car ride following the incident in the bathroom, arriving at a house with an older woman, a young girl, and men who were doing drugs and drinking. She recalls being violently raped.
Shandra recalls her first attempt at escaping her trafficker while he slept and calling for help once she was safe at a hotel only to realize the help number she had been given was the number of a trafficker.
Shandra talks about finally escaping, along with other girls, finding help. She talks about the people who refused to help her or believe her story until an FBI investigation looked into her case and arrested her trafficker.
Shandra talks about the work she does now through Mentari, her organization, helping survivors of trafficking get the support they need.


  • Shandra Woworuntu
  • Katie Ford

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:00 65 years old today is April 15th 2021 and I'm in the United States. My partner is Chandra willowind to and we work together and combating human trafficking and have become friends over the years.

00:22 Hi, my name is Chandra Mohan. Do I am 44 years. Old today is Thursday, April 15th, 2021 and I'm based in New York USA.

00:36 My decoding partner is Katie Ford Cas. Amazing woman as my mentor. And yes, my friend.

00:50 So, Sondra

00:52 Yes, getting weird started. We started working together.

00:57 Many years ago, but when we first met, we didn't even

01:03 No, but we were going to do together and never really anticipated. I think this long relationships that we've had. What were you thinking when we were?

01:14 Oh, back, s s a v with a few, in the cast of gang. We are losing gas, and, you know, I always have a boundary with people, but at that time I also didn't expect that. We came so far until now, The First beginning I spoke with you. It was October 16th 2013. When, when we read together at the AC fan speed to force in New York City. I see you, you're sitting and come and it was just to get me to get to know you and if it was lucky because you give me your car and I'll be continued, our meeting. I was going to sleep and

02:07 Just amazing. And finally, we were able to work together.

02:14 And Compass a lot together.

02:20 It does feel like that since 2013, but we've come a long way and I found your story. So compelling and

02:35 There are many aspects of it, which I could not have imagined previously. And I already knew about human trafficking. I was working in the field.

02:46 But your story just there's one step after the other and your resilience and your ability to make things. Happen is so touching it and frankly amazing.

03:00 Baby, we could start with you, telling people where you're from, what your life was like when you were younger.

03:10 So you, you blow me to my memory when I was talk to it in the Philippines and Indonesia. I was raised by my grandma and I threw up in the wealthy Family actually, so I got a better and good education at that time. So I graduated call it when I was before 18 years old and I wanted to see if I got the job in a bang. I was so proud of myself because I was younger and I have a few companies. When I was 18 years old with this camping business. I have, I have a cafeteria in my school. And also, I have a fashion business of specific for children and

04:08 A political so I got high the time at that time. I lost my job as assistant, general manager of tissue. He at the international thing and I was fine on sale on Elias and I lost a girlfriend. So it was, it was my there was a lot of political upheaval that affected your position at the bank, right?

04:42 So if it wasn't saying that but it's not, everybody knows country to be really turning around. So drastically. It was it was political problems with everybody demanded information, and as a woman, young woman that having a good girl fashion. It is so difficult to be out there on the street because why they hid the girl take care of people. And at the same time there was a geologist up discussion with his Muslim and Christian Christian and Muslim. They were fighting and innocent people became a victim including myself. So I wasn't able to go out to the street because of the dangerous and combination of the businesses were, you know, who burned out and the car I can see

05:42 The cop and the US currency was so strong. So it was a situation economic politics or combined and centerpiece phylum's happening in.

05:56 So, how did you think about what you should do in the future?

06:01 At that time. You mineral at that time. I was a financial analyst and I, you know, I learned about the contest because of almost every day. I deal with money, like a pager.

06:15 And I learned that US dollar was the best guy dances at that time and I stick to the opportunity to go outside to Indonesia. What does the expectation? I will get it done. I will come back and at least my daughter I was, I was a single back and at that time because my my husband passed away. I was excited seeing a picture of me and I love Pizza Hut and I love you and see you. I will help me to send my daughter to college and Isaac opportunity to go to many different than see and I saw you asked, Australia and I selected because of the pregnancy and I can eat McDonalds everyday, you know it was

07:15 Houston and I want to go to leave because of it. So amazed with the with the hand and the liberty and I think it was one piece on an I love Whitney Houston. So I said, when I do, I will meet her. I will go to the Central Park and I will go back to Indonesia images, my daughter after I get the money and I got the job.

07:48 I got to tell Katie, I know you got the job. So I want to go back before we get to that, John to just reiterate. You were essential Trader, which gave you the knowledge about different currencies. And so, with that you knew which currency was the strongest and decided to come to the United States. If you know anything about human trafficking at that point, you know, I never I never learned about human trafficking. I never get information about human trafficking, what I knew and I will get babe and go back home. It was just a simple idea to come to the United States.

08:46 So, who approached you and how, how did you find? This job didn't pay for it in the, in the newspaper. Actually. I saw Annapolis basement and one of the framers and high a newspaper name,, and I saw in many different newspaper that the same at the basement 6-month seasonal job in many different countries, and I decided to pick the United States. So, I call I called the agent with his biggest religion in Indonesia. So, I am at the exit to pay $3,000. Do you have a spot? And I also put out. Yes. I have two spots. Do you have money to pay the agent agency money? Of course, I haven't.

09:46 I am good with saving. So I said yes, I do it. So I went to the Past miling walking. They said the job is in the hotel as a waitress and I didn't really know how it is look like in the United States in Indonesia. This is a simple thing. It will help me to get away from the violence in my country and I will be safe at least 6 months and I leave my daughter behind. So I paid I got my Visa with the documentation from the agency and I cut my finger and I'm so excited to go.

10:34 And you ask. So I went to be American Embassy and got your papers in your passport stamps came in and came in illegally expecting a six-month job.

10:51 And,

10:53 When you came here.

10:56 What happened? Can you describe coming arriving? Have you felt and then what happened after the country? And you'll, and my new dream, a dream land for me at a time. I was supposed to do an integration with my passport, with the fisa. T-Tech on me. I give the best smile I ever have to be questioning me. I past six months time because of my sister was a seasonal job visa and

11:41 The Anthem, actually, wait in front of the gate. When people pick up the passenger, he has my picture of my passport and my hands to him. And I said, yes, I am. I still so scared. I feel safe that someone recognized me and take me to Tikka, go to work. And I'm saying, but I realized actually more people behind me with the same destination, Johnny Wong the anthem.

12:16 So I so I felt safe and most accurate at that time.

12:23 There were several people coming to work in the United States with someone who seemed very professional.

12:32 And they were you actually landed in New York.

12:42 And so you all gathered as a group, you didn't suspect anything that you were just excited now until he saved your workplace. He said your workplace. So you have to stay overnight in New York because it's late in the evening and that I trusted him and he stayed late, Chandra, Monica and Sadia. You can with with me and three of three of people. Mad at you go with other people. So we will divide it becomes too. So three of us with Johnnie Walker,

13:27 And what happened then I was not yesterday. They drove me to a location in front of the Sheraton Hotel, and I found out it was actually sitting in the parking lot and I was so excited. Maybe this is the place and he said, are you awake in the in the car? So the three of us inside the fam and he went out and he got money from another people, a bunch of money and he said, hey, you guys move move move, so they didn't really speak English. So don't even speak and I spoke my life. So we still connected with a different language, not Indonesian in English, and he said, three of us move to another vehicle with another peep.

14:26 And then some. I was confused, is this, is this type of professional a business here, but I didn't really know at that time. I didn't have an idea. And then this man took us in the vehicle and he took me to another location. Another exchange of financial exchange. So info of money, money and money, until he took me to a to the China in College Point.

15:04 He said, you have to eat, or did you let my night my night, so we spoke with body language and some easy conversation, that make me understand about what they want. So we we ate and another people came a couple and also said, someone will come to pick you up and you stay with him. I got confused. Why you stay with him, stay with them, stay with him. So it's keep moving until the last like middle. It's men came. And he said, okay, he'll come with me. So he spoke Malay Malay also Malaysian, so, I understood and he took me to the vehicle and drove about 5, 15 minutes at the location and I found out. It was Bayside, actually. Now, I learned a lot and

15:58 Hit the gas to his house.

16:00 Townhouse, so, he took me to the Epic the top by the, who I didn't know how to call it at the moment. And he said, when I answered it was a disaster. It was, it wasn't look like a wet house. Look like a mess is a stinky smelly. It's so bad. And

16:30 It's a mess and so many condoms use on the, on the, on the floor and then some use condom under on the back. A new condom on the table. I was thinking.

16:46 Sister, so I didn't know what, you know, what to expect. What kind of treatment it was. And two girls. They were younger than me 17, + 15 years or so. I was the oldest.

17:01 And be fighting before I went to the bathroom this man.

17:09 Not the dog and open.

17:12 And he said, he wanted to see my body and my, my skin and everybody skin, if you have thought through their skin problem. I know you will not see my my body I didn't. So I hope my Michaels my myself Bitely with my hand clapping to my my arm, to make sure that he will not get me a call whatever and then the stickers they were scared. I couldn't Express house gag. I was, but I was so great at that time. No, no, it's no. I said, but I spoke in Malaysia and then he took the gun from his pocket and points it on my hat.

18:01 On my side, move to different. Just keep moving his, his, his gun, and he pulled my hand so tight, and he locked, the door. Come outside. So, to go inside. So that's the situation in that place.

18:18 You know, it was scaredy-cat with but

18:23 But I didn't know where my business came come. I was so tired at that time. I try to to fight but I couldn't. He was a big and he took me to the basement. And push me into the vehicle is set on by old. And I tried to open from inside, open, open open, open. It was luck. And his gun was on my waist and he drove with one of his head about about 5-10 minutes, 15 minutes. I am I couldn't I couldn't count the time at that time because of I was so scared and pay attention to everything. I was alone. If something come up and I was come because of his stop the vehicle and he let me out.

19:17 He let me out with, with his hands, still on my, on my, on my wrist and I'm still on my back.

19:28 And I said, okay, at least I wasn't in the vehicle. So we went to the back to the house and neighborhood and hearing the Bell. Yum yum woman open open the the the thing to look at people who come hide it is the woman that that's what island in Indonesia.

20:01 So I was, I was more scared at that time. I was checking and see open and a smile and he said, that's okay. They gave me a nice look, beautiful face like that. He like,

20:24 And I I substitute and I saw a big security man swinging the baseball bat in front of me. So it made me more scared and so many people space in the living room. I think it was awaiting assumed. They were drinking alcohol business. You know, smell the cooking and doing some painting inside. And I saw a little girl was. I I scared Kitty. It was six years old.

21:06 I didn't know what happened. So frightening to see that. I can't even imagine somebody's with a bat. Their people doing drugs. Did you ever seen drives before? I know. I never seen the like you up with a nice and educated family and we we didn't even have. It was something new for me to see combined in an alcohol. I knew. But I, I didn't know why I'm in my country, big is number one, alcohol. And I didn't know how they do it, but I thought it was dropped because of ice in the movie. I say in the movie, so we used to watch western movie. That's not the reason I want to come to the u.s. Nice building. Beautiful People, beautiful. And actually it's not like that.

22:04 Yeah, so it was the first day on my ad I fall I was so people that want to buy sex.

22:14 So when you were in this house where you went and this woman, the mamasan was welcoming you but then you get in and you see someone with him and all these other people.

22:28 If you know what was going on, then I didn't know because mama said, can you stop licking? No, you stop making money. That's what I think. It wasn't. What I deserve. It wasn't the obvious. So the first day I was soaked and I have to be hit by people.

22:52 And it wasn't just know. It wasn't the job. It was okay. I was Sol.

22:58 And I was sold in front of me for $120.

23:04 Call 45 minutes.

23:08 The most and screaming. If ice cream, or the more violence happening in the bedroom.

23:19 So did they take that person? Doesn't have to pick me. So many people. Pick me because I was a new.

23:31 If and they were violent people.

23:36 All of them 99% disabled and they didn't get they, like, when we we scream, we feel hurt the motor like it if if if we don't scream or we don't feel her, they can hurt us. So either way it was a type of

23:58 Po. So I was, I was Sleep Inn in a different type of file. As whether physically sexually, big call name this slapped, it it was it was painful.

24:16 Obviously at that point you realize that what you were expecting wasn't happening. Yes, it was and what they tell me.

24:26 Right, you can think you've been promised one thing and got another and

24:33 It was unfortunate, but what I deserve to be working to $30,000, but I was, I was told that I have to pay, this traffic has for 30,000 US dollar.

24:54 Bye.

24:58 Being so I was being sold one customer that but my buddy will deduct $100 from that manipulation. Death or deaf creation. Amazing. How many people and then they let me go, I don't think so get it. You know, that you've been working in this field in India, in many countries. And in the US, you saw that firsthand. They will not let me go.

25:24 Yes, we know it now, but that's in retrospect before when you're in that situation.

25:33 What were your thoughts, were you thinking? I'm going to run away. Oh, where your phone work hard and pay off.

25:46 With the first thing, we want to buy a uniform. Do you need from the store looking in the hotel is not got in front of me. So I tried to escape again. They took my passport.

26:06 It took all my belongings. So how I can go? I have no money. So I tried to slide back from this paperwork. So we are surrounded by people if we walk. So, don't it by practical and the allies. And then I couldn't, I was so afraid, and then they took me to Connecticut and your London. I was a girl scout. So I find all the deceit, my pants everything, but I jumped on the Attic Window, but I couldn't look. It's the clown. And I didn't know how, how, how is the height of the, the window and the crown. So I climb back and finally is given to him.

26:55 Finally, I asked it.

26:58 Bedroom window in Oakland.

27:03 While my plastic is clap.

27:10 And can you describe that? This is an amazing places to places is not one place. So prattle hotel by small hotel. Neighborhood escort, massage place in every way. So they took me back to Johnny Wong because of the time is ended. So supposed another traffic. I will kick ass at that moment. So I said no, no, no, no one said you had to go to Boston. I said, I don't know. Why his Boston, Boston cited, This Must Be Love. I just don't even know what happened to you. It will not happen again. I'm so sorry me with that and I didn't press him now. I guess I didn't know it's no. So I I found I'm at the girl in the battle and sister.

28:10 Shandra has my name to be candy, actually. Hi Candy if you put off the dab.

28:20 Call this man, but he will give you a job in the bank in the hotel or Inn in place that you like because of I told people that I was working in the bang.

28:31 So it was another, hope it was another hope and I kept that number. I was afraid John even found out that number. I put inside my bag are so I got a little bit of my but I put it inside for May 16th at night. I couldn't take it anymore. I I I called all the girls Gump Islands Malaysia from many different places including so I told them I wasn't running away. I want to running away. My English was was back to I couldn't speak I couldn't communicate with English. You know now I'm better now.

29:19 Island a lot of thing in my life so I tried to open but I couldn't find the driver is a nice.

29:28 So, I was a little bit pricey, Miss at a time. How can I open that window? The glass window? So I found a spoon. So, I used a spoon and fork to do it and I got it. I was so happy that time I climb.

29:46 I climb and I saw it must be high.

29:51 And I didn't know if I could make it, but I learned when I was in Girl, Scout. They thought me how with them, how you say, feel in your position, when I apply for Island, and I, I called everybody. I went back to the hymn. Come on. We have to go. So I am on the phone. So it make a make a nicest water dripping, and then I climb up to that small window. And I just said, like, oh, Lord, help me just praying and I jump, it was, it was good.

30:31 Iowa safe. It was good. I didn't have any sector. I didn't have any scraps. It was amazing. It was magical and the younger actually dumb. On top of me. When I, when I meet this girl, we talked about about the oxygen. So clean, no smile in my life that I can. I can I can enjoy and it was sad medical school because of the window was so small and I handed the corner and I went back again.

31:31 Hey, honey, I told them I would be back for you. I will be back for you. I will pick you up.

31:38 And long shot with the cat. The cat. This girl, this girl. I'm sorry. I have a little money from Indonesia. So actually it was Pennsylvania Hotel and we couldn't sleep. I took a shower. It was it was beautiful too, experienced in the morning, he came and he said he was so nice, and he said finally actually he threw me actually he he was another traffic and he called Tony Wang and his ass back to him and I ask it again and difficult to see cow.

32:31 So I am I expect it was Freedom, no more with this traffic at that time, but the girlfriend back.

32:43 So II, first of all, you get out and call this number is somebody who supposedly to help you and there another trafficker.

32:55 And they send you back to the place you came from.

32:59 And your determination, you would not give up. So you tried.

33:10 This story to me, is,

33:13 Unbelievable. What happened to them?

33:16 Can you describe the parking in the pot? Making food sticking food, come back and it's supposed to be asleep, but I said, I have to help the girls and I have to be safe and go back to see my daughter.

33:42 So I want to say that you were homeless. You didn't have your passport and didn't have your identification. You went to to police stations that said we can't help you. We don't believe you you went to park, right?

34:03 Can you explain the interaction with the person? And he brought me a coffee and a bun and ask and I feel like

34:23 He'd believe, me, police in the check, on my all my documentation. He picked the airline the embassy always do it and the fact, and he, he found the address of the plateau through my nose. So, I have a note, little note, and finally, the law enforcement.

34:58 When with me and a glass Johnny Wong and the guests killed, Mexico.

35:10 And several of the traffickers put in my name. My name was Cynthia Moore. My name back. I was I was happy.

35:28 We only have a few minutes left. So I would like you to describe.

35:36 What mentari does with less than 5 minutes? So I want to cover what montari does how you were so resilient and what you hope others I love about.

35:57 You gave me food and feed them for all you were the one person that believe on me with my work. So I have I have until now we have 580 Super Hyper Snowman by skill and replacement and we opted out that we did the profession with more than 250,000 to 10 million. Maybe through my my activism. And what I can say is through this this conversation. I think everybody can do something to be a part of the solution. I use your table and use your eyes. Are your expectations, your profession that we are doing like a surprise party.

36:54 But my stuff because we do this thing, we go to the street to help people, and we're not stand by Community. Maybe this conversation, people can start learning how to, to be in fall.

37:12 You expected your talent and your time, and if you have money, do I need a non-profit like us on Friday? So we can continue. I will look to help other people because of we cannot let this happen to other people. Just make a Survivor the last

37:34 You know, I would like to add that your vocational training, the culinary program, have a 96% success rate and it provided jobs. Most these people who come to the United States been promised a real job and have been forced into prostitution and then

37:59 For you. An actual job, which is amazing with the you know, the biggest did you tell them to me to do better all the time? That's the main, the main and the line what I'm doing you one of the person that also fired me because of your words always challenged me to tell us. I think the talent you really take every Challenge and uplift yourself, but everyone around him. There is no one you walk in a room and you light up the room you speak on behalf of traffickers. You've become a major leader in the field. So that now governments are Consulting with you. I have to say,

38:57 Bravo. You're so amazing and everything about you list people, emotionally and

39:07 Actually financially economically safety-wise for the survivors are amazing. How do I am now? It was a Jew.

39:30 Exactly, you have to my passion and compassion, we have so many people and we will continue this fight. We will continue because of those people that are affected by trafficking. They inspired me every single day and I believe through our partnership and collaboration. I hope more people will get involved with us and multiple will do something. And then I would like to see that we can eradicate human trafficking, too many work, especially the friendship, and support affect demand supply place. That's the most

40:09 Thank you. Thank you, Son. Thank you for always because Andre and support and help me because you are the best man I ever have. Your talents is a daily, make me go through. I am now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.