Undoubtedly Somaly Mam and supporters have done courageous work fighting sex traffickers.
Mam is one of the world’s most compelling activists, brave and beautiful, and her list of supporters is long and formidable. Mam claims to have rescued thousands of girls and women from sex trafficking, a dangerous and formidable feat. Her story becomes even more inspiring when you hear her shocking tale of being sold into sexual slavery. In 2005, she published her autobiography, The Road of Lost Innocence, which became an international best-seller. Mam was one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2009 and has over 400,000 followers on Twitter.
Mam has raised millions with a hectic schedule of meetings all over the globe with the good, the great and the super-rich—from the U.N.’s Ban Ki-moon to the pope. She has paid herself handsomely.
Does it matter that key parts of her story aren’t true? Does it matter that she was never a victim of sex trafficking?
Mam can't keep the story straight. In February 2012, while speaking at the White House, she said she was sold into slavery at age 9 or 10 and spent a decade inside a brothel. On The Tyra Banks Show, she said it was four or five years in the brothel. Her book says she was trafficked when she was “about 16 years old.”
In 2012, she admitted—after being confronted with some of my early reporting—that she had made false claims in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in which she said eight girls she had rescued from the sex industry were killed by the Cambodian army after a raid on her shelter in 2004.
An acquaintance said there have been doubts about Mam’s life story for years, but “it’s all about image, getting to the big shot who has a lot of money and who feels sorry for this kind of story. They’re very successful, and they have been very successful in an incredible way because they connect with the right people, and they have all the movie stars, famous rock stars and famous people supporting them, and [all those people] are still being taken for a ride now.”
Those mistakes have led to helping many people and bringing international attention to a very serious problem. Does it deserve your contribution and further support. (Newsweek article)
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