Fans know Academy Award-winner Mira Sorvino for her movies. But the “Mighty Aphrodite” actress has another role she’s passionate about.
“This is the other side of me,” says Sorvino, whose latest film with Keanu Reeves, “Exposed,” premieres in January.
Finding a cause
Sorvino has always been impassioned to fight the incidence of people treating others as less than human. At Harvard, her undergraduate thesis was concerned with racial conflict; she’s also worked with Amnesty International as their Stop Violence Against Women Campaign spokesperson, where she first learned about human trafficking.
“I was staggered. I had naively thought that slavery was a thing of the past,” she says, explaining after meeting with two survivors, “my heart was forever changed—my eyes forever opened.”
From that moment on, she continues, “I became committed to fighting this atrocity with my heart, body and soul.” Sorvino notes how over 30 million people around the world—women, men and children—are slaves, more than at any other point in recorded history. Currently only 1 slave in 100 will be discovered and rescued.
“It is not happening only in some far away country; it is happening here,” says Sorvino, who supports the LA-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST). “Prostitution breeds sex trafficking. The practice creates a market where traffickers can sell their victims, either under-aged or adult.”
Calling LA a “hub of sex trafficking,” Sorvino says the area is also known for labor trafficking, especially with agricultural workers and domestic labor. Wealthy families frequently import workers who are kept as debt bondage slaves, given no freedom or money and may be physically or psychologically abused.
A humane voice
Since 2009, Sorvino has been a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking. Also a participant in the Blue Heart campaign, a global awareness and action program to fight Human Trafficking, she’s met with the Pope, addressing the Vatican conference on law enforcement and clergy working to end slavery.
“Everywhere I go I interview survivors, aid workers, members of government, police, NGO’s and even a trafficker, to deepen my knowledge base for advocacy and promote best practices,” explains Sorvino. She wants the world to know every person affected by human trafficking is important, is capable of great contributions and that should be brought to the table of any creation of solutions.
Sorvino has collaborated on CNN’s Freedom Project documentaries on ending modern day slavery, including “Every Day in Cambodia,” where she met young girls sold for their virginity. “The victimized children have been some of the most heart-wrenching,” says Sorvino, a married mother of four. “It turns my stomach and fuels the fire to make me do more.”
The actress advocates the creation, strengthening and robust implementation of anti-trafficking laws everywhere—in the U.S. especially, for Safe Harbor-type laws, which decriminalize child victims of human trafficking and overturn convictions, as well as entitle them to services vital to their recovery and reintegration into society. “It proposes a real paradigm shift for law enforcement and the court system to see these people as crime victims,” she says.