Putting a Face on Human Trafficking—One Local Woman’s Story

As officials try to raise awareness about the existence of people who have been trafficked, a Seattle woman tells her unusual story. Her mother’s family was victimized by her father, a Ph.D. and concert violinist who worked with the U.N.

By Christine Clarridge for The Seattle Times
Yasmin Christopher remembers being crammed into a tiny apartment in Aberdeen with nine of her relatives when she was about 4 years old. They shared one bedroom, a single bathroom, had no furniture and no money. Her dad was in jail and her mom, a foreign-born teenage mother of two, was terrified.2020373168

For Yasmin, it was one of the happiest times of her life.

“We were all free and we were all together,” recalls the Seattle University law student, now 28. “The bad thing that happened to us when we moved here was over.”

Yasmin, her younger sister, mother and a half-dozen other relatives had been brought to the U.S. from their native Bangladesh by her father, Stefan Christopher, to toil on his 65-acre farm near the tiny Grays Harbor County town of Oakville. There, he fed them little, paid them nothing, sexually abused some of the children and beat the adults. Police would later learn he forced one of Yasmin’s uncles to dig his own grave before nearly beating him to death.

Yasmin’s childhood ordeal and her father’s eventual criminal conviction have made her a spokeswoman of sorts for victims of human trafficking, a global crime that generates billions of dollars in profits for the traffickers and increasingly targets young children. Yasmin has lent her voice to a recent campaign launched by Seattle and King County to raise awareness of the issue and alert people to how they can help.

“People don’t realize that there’s not one kind of trafficker. Traffickers do not have a stereotypical face,” she said. “It can happen anywhere; in cities, the suburbs, factories and farms. It can involve the most unexpected people.”

 

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