Sina Vann was kidnapped at the age of 13 and sold into slavery in Cambodia. She was taken to a brothel where dozens of men raped her nearly every day, and where she was tortured with electric shocks in a dungeon if she refused to smile and act seductive. She was often locked into a coffin full of biting ants as punishment, and endured this horrific life for two years, until a police raid organized by anti-sex slavery activist Somaly Mam freed her. "When I stepped into Cambodia, my childhood ended," Vann has said, "and the dark side of my life started."
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On Wednesday night, the smiling and beautiful Vann was honored with a Frederick Douglass Freedom Award for her fight to end sex slavery, which she’s taken on as a crusade since being freed. She is an integral part of Mam’s anti-sex slavery foundation. Actress Demi Moore, who recently launched the The Demi & Ashton Foundation to help end slavery, presented Vann with the award, bringing the entire audience at the Free the Slaves Freedom Awards ceremony to its feet.
Moore, dressed in a draping, slate gray gown, which one observer described as “very Grecian,” told the audience that “the moment we were made aware of this issue, we realized we couldn’t live in a world where slavery existed.”
Bongo drums and colorful saris helped keep the tone of the ceremony at the USC campus in Los Angeles hopeful and festive, despite the terrifying issue that brought a crowd of A-listers and activists together. Ending slavery has become a hot-button issue in Hollywood, attracting interest from Bruce Almighty director Tom Shadyac (the night’s host), Camilla Belle, and Ashton Kutcher and Moore, who presented the night’s Frederick Douglass Award to Vann.
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Shadyac noted that Kutcher was an ideal spokesman for the cause, seeing as “We know he out-Tweeted CNN.”
Author Isabel Allende also spoke eloquently about slavery, which is the subject of her new novel, The Island Below the Sea. “The research (for the book) made me ill,” Allende said. “I thought that I had cancer.”
“The moment we were made aware of this issue, we realized we couldn’t live in a world where slavery existed,” Moore said.
The goal of the night was to enlighten and inspire those in attendance to step up and get involved in a crime that is affecting 27 million people around the world, in the form of human trafficking and debt bondage.
“I thought we ended this is 1865,” Shadyac said. “We got Punk’d. We didn’t end it.”
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