FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS MONTH, INAMUNAI HONORS RHONELLE BRUDER
Rhonelle Bruder is an internationally recognized speaker, advocate, writer, and entrepreneur. She engages audiences around the world, speaking about human rights, social equity, resilience and various mental health issues. Rhonelle is and has been recognized for her leadership in raising awareness on human trafficking and advocating for the rights of survivors. She has been featured on CBC, Global News, The Agenda, Flare Magazine, The Toronto Star and more.
Rhonelle was born in the Caribbean, but was adopted at the age of three by a Canadian family. Growing up, she had a loving but often chaotic childhood. Both her parents have suffered from mental illnesses, which greatly impacted their ability to raise her sisters and herself. Her school life offered no relief. As one of very few non-white people in her school, she was subjected to extreme racism and bullying. These experiences left her socially isolated and contributed to her depression and anxiety.
At the age of 16, Rhonelle left home. Initially she stayed with friends but eventually ended up on the streets. Bouncing between youth shelters and transitional homes, she met a young woman who introduced her to an older man. She did not know at the time that he was a trafficker and was using the young woman to recruit more young girls for him. The young man deceitfully presented himself to Rhonelle as a boyfriend and protector, exploiting her vulnerabilities, manipulating her and coercing her into the sex industry.
While being trafficked, her life consisted of traveling from city to city working at various strip clubs. Because she had a daily quota to make, it meant she was often forced to work 12 hour shifts whether or not she was tired, sick, or hungry. Her trafficker did not use physical violence or drugs. Instead, he used psychological and emotional abuse as a means of controlling Rhonelle. Over the next few months she lived in a state of constant fear and isolation. It was only after witnessing a vicious assault on a woman at the hands of her trafficker that she was able to muster up the courage to escape.
Even after escaping the life of being trafficked, Rhonelle has struggled with the effects psychological and emotional trauma as a result of her abuse. Resilience, however, was her hidden yet most powerful weapon. With no resources available at the time, she struggled for years to rebuild her life. Ultimately, she was able to go back to school and earned both Undergraduate and Graduate degrees in the Health Sciences, which have allowed her to build a professional career as a researcher and consultant.
Today, in addition to being a researcher and consultant, she works as a public speaker and anti-trafficking advocate. As both a survivor and advocate, Rhonelle believes that education and awareness of the topic are the keys to ending human trafficking. This illegal trade continues to flourish and remains lucrative because many misconceptions and myths perpetuate, placing countless young people at greater risk for exploitation. Lack of knowledge and understanding of the topic at hand also seriously delays the identification of victims. For these reasons, Rhonelle Bruder remains passionate about using her voice to raise awareness and help break down the stigma survivors face.
We thank you, Rhonelle, for all of the work that you do!
Rhonelle Bruder, MSc, BS (Hons)
TEDx Speaker I Advocate I Consultant