The New Abolitionists


In this Women’s History Month, let’s remember human trafficking.




I am embarrassed to say, that despite my 50 years of trying to care for the underserved, that I never heard of the “new abolitionists” until I attended a classical music concert on February 26 while sunbirding in Houston. I guess this is an example that news is wherever you find it.

Certainly, I was familiar with the old abolitionists—if I can use such a term—who worked for the abolition of slavery, especially in the history of Black Africans forcefully brought to the Americas. As I learned at the concert, the New Abolitionists are people working to end modern slavery and human trafficking—being the manipulative coercion of others, mainly women and children, for sex, labor, and/or commerce.

The 8-minute piece of music was written by Leanna Primiani and called “Neither men nor money validate my worth.” In her liner notes, the composer expressed how surprised she was at the extent of known human trafficking. In 2021, UNICEF reported over 160 million children in some kind of forced labor around the world, up from 40 million in 2017. In Texas, there were over 300,000 in 2016; California, her home state, did not make its numbers public. My wife and I felt she was successful in musically demonstrating the heroic journey of women who break free.

In this Women’s History Month, on March 16, our country’s Violence Against Women Act was renewed. Two of our women leaders, Angelina Jolie and Ruth Glenn of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, praised the renewal on various media. However, connecting psychiatry once again to Ukraine, as so many of my columns seem to do, now that women and children have become voluntarily separated from their husbands as refugees, the concern is that many will end up in human trafficking.

Of course, it would be no surprise that many caught in human trafficking would develop posttraumatic stress disorder and related psychiatric conditions. I would assume that some of you have been involved with such victims and survivors. If so, please share some of your experience, clinical or otherwise.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

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