Anne Archer Joins Fight Against Human Trafficking

Brooke Axtell
Oct 11, 2017 · 5 min read

Academy Award nominee Anne Archer has captivated audiences for decades with her powerful performances in iconic films, such as Fatal Attraction and Patriot Games. As the Founder of Artists for Human Rights, she mobilizes artists to address the most pressing human rights issues of our time, including human trafficking. On October 6, her most recent film, Trafficked, opened in select theaters after a premiere at The United Nations.

This compelling movie, based on the book Sex Trafficking by Harvard professor Siddharth Kara, tells the story of three young women who endure sex trafficking in the United States and end up in a Texas brothel where they stand together to fight for their lives. I connected with Anne to discuss Trafficked, human rights, and the healing power of art. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

What impact do you hope the film will have for those who see it?

“There is a lack of empathy where there is ignorance. I am hoping the film will awaken people to how easy it is to traffic a girl from any walk of life…The most important thing is that we must treat {these girls} as victims, not criminals. We should protect these girls. Yes, they’ve been brainwashed to believe this is their only worth. But with the right care, they can come out of it and lead very productive lives and help other girls, too. I hope this film opens peoples’ eyes.”

What are some common myths you encounter as you educate other people on human trafficking?

“That it’s not a big issue. That a girl thinks it’s empowering because she might profit from it. That she has a choice when there are traffickers and pimps involved, and forced drugging. Without help, it’s nearly impossible to emerge out of that situation. That’s what people don’t understand. I want to make that very clear and the film helps with that.

Another myth is that a girl is creating the scenario when really it is the trafficker and the buyer. Without the buyer, the trafficker has no business. It’s easier for a trafficker to run girls than it is to run drugs because it’s safer. The penalties are so low for trafficking humans.”

What inspired you to create Artists for Human Rights?

“I’ve always been intensely interested in human rights. As a kid, injustice really bothered me. I remember, when I was about six, turning on the TV and accidentally seeing a documentary on the Holocaust. I never forgot it. It was unfathomable to me that human beings could treat other human beings in this fashion. It was so barbaric and cruel.

I think I made a promise to myself at that point that I would always stand up against that. It formed my viewpoint that we need to do everything we can to never let our fellow man be treated that way again. We have to stand up for what’s right and fight for the rights of others. It starts with individual acts. And little by little it grows and grows. We all try and do our part.”

Why are the arts so important in creating this social change?

“Art will change hearts and minds overnight. In film, stories help us come to love and understand people from a different culture and viewpoint than ourselves. Art is healing. It changes everything. We have our ups and downs, but artists have to keep creating, so we can have a better world.”

Through Artists For Human Rights, you have worked to address generational slavery in India, can you share a transformative moment from one of your trips to the villages you are helping?

“Sitting on the ground in rural villages with these beautiful people who have never learned to read and write, and the joy on the women’s faces as they begin to realize they have rights, and that their children can get educated. I remember sitting in the circle with our translator talking with these women and it was like there was hope and light in their eyes for the first time. The children were so excited to be learning something that is so valuable for them. Something we take for granted is life changing in these villages.

I thought, ‘Oh my God, What are we doing?’ We have so much knowledge and ability. We have to do something. We cannot allow people to be treated in this way any more. For the first time, at Artists for Human Rights, we have funded the freeing of an entire village in Varanasi. The people there are referred to as outcasts. They have no identity and no papers.”

If you could say one thing to someone who is just learning about the issue of human trafficking, what would you want them to know?

“That there is more to the story than you probably understand. Fight for young women who are trafficked to be treated as victims, not criminals, and fight against any form of prosecution against them. That has got to change before young women are going to have rights.”

Do you have any words of encouragement for survivors, for women and girls who are coming out this exploitation and starting new lives?

“You are worthy and valuable and have something to offer. You deserve to have a good life. You don’t have to stay in a situation where you are being coerced. What I often get from survivors is that they don’t feel they are anything. I want them to know they are worthy.”

To learn more about the film and find a local screening visit

Brooke Axtell is the Founder of She is Rising, a global healing community for survivors of gender violence and sex trafficking. She is devoted to helping survivors become leaders. Her work as writer, performing artist and human rights activist has been featured in The New York Times, LA Times, Rolling Stone, Steve Harvey Show and People Magazine. Brooke appeared on the 2015 Grammys along with Katy Perry to address the issue of domestic violence and encourage survivors of abuse to reach out for help.

Brooke Axtell

Founder of She is Rising

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