Family photographs don’t even begin to tell Minh Dang’s life story. Behind the brown eyes of a little girl are unseen horrors, horrors that she says happened at the hands of the two people who should have protected her from unspeakable acts. Her parents. After years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, Dang says her mother and father teamed up to sell her for sex—starting at age 10.
“They actually recruited people, so my mom placed ads in Vietnamese newspapers and magazines,” Dang recalled. “My dad took me to these businesses, they were cafes, and they were fronts for brothels. He would take me to brothels and leave me there for weeks on end, and brothels sell children for sex so that was my job while I was there.”
While in school in Los Altos and Mountain View, her job was to keep her secret life exactly that; a secret. “My choir and orchestra teacher in middle school thought something was up, but I don’t think could have guessed this was up because I was a straight A student, I wasn’t your typical delinquent kid,” Dang said. Her teachers could never have imagined that at night, Dang’s parents forced her into sexual slavery.
“The first two years I was going to college but was still enslaved. I was still being sold by my parents,” Dang said. “Then they paid my final bill for college, and that’s when I cut all ties with them, that Iwould contact the police if they contacted me again, and then that was it.”
That may have been the end of her relationship with her parents, but it was just the beginning of a new life for Dang. She’s now working with actress and activist Jada Pinkett Smith, and her non-profit Don’t Sell Bodies. Dang is using her past not only to urge new legislation to end human trafficking, but also to help other victims who can’t yet speak out.
Learn more at Stephanie Chuang and Liza Meak’s NBC Bay Area article: From Child Sex Slave to Activist: Berkeley Woman Breaks Chains of Human Trafficking.