Sex trafficking survivor wakes up crowd

Jonathan Rainey, Staff Writer

Wake Up, held on Tuesday, Oct. 16 in the University Commons, featured speaker Mandolyn Orrell who told her personal story of surviving sex trafficking.

Orrell recounted the story of how she was trapped in the sex trafficking industry from age two to age 15. Held in captivity for 13 years by her father, she was sold several times per night in order to support his gambling habit. Orrell’s father moved her around the United States as well as through foreign countries to evade detection.

Orrell’s captivity in the sex trafficking trade ended at age 15 when she told her father about her recent conversion to Christianity. Her father beat her until she was unconscious, but the friend with her called the police who then moved Orrell into state custody.

She was raised in foster homes until she ultimately decided to start using her story to help others trapped in the same situation. She worked in South Korea and elsewhere in East Asia, actively working with government authorities through the Not for Sale organization before coming to South Carolina to work as a state director.

Orrell’s personal account generated a lot of feedback from the audience, and she held a question and answer session at the end to clarify the details about her life. Several students reacted to Orell’s difficulty in sharing her past. Orrell responded by saying that she views the events in her life as happening for a reason.

“Although these terrible events throughout my entire life happened, God is bigger and his grace covers that and there is hope – because I didn’t have any hope before, and the hope that I have now is solely and only because of Christ,” Orrell said. “So that’s really what drives me so that I can give others that hope and share that hope with others.”

Magdalene Larson, a senior majoring in psychology, found Orrell’s presentation moving and said that she was even considering getting involved with Not for Sale South Carolina to fight back against the injustice.

“I’ve always wanted to do something about human trafficking, so her coming here motivates me even more to do something,” Larson said. “I never even knew there was an actual organization fighting against human trafficking.”

Larson was not the only one who was affected by Orrell’s presentation, however.

Lauren Balutis, a senior Early Childhood Education major and President of Zeta Tau Alpha, was in charge of one of the booths at Wake Up giving students the opportunity to learn about and fight against malaria epidemics in third world nations. Balutis also heard Orrell’s presentation and tried to reconcile it to her field of study and future work.

“It hit home for me, thinking about what if I had a student in my class that went through [sex trafficking], and so it really affected me personally,” Balutis said. “That kind of stuff can happen in your own class, in your own community, in your own state.  You don’t think about it here in America.”

For Orrell, coming to places like FMU to talk to people who may have gone through difficult situations makes everything worth it.

“It’s the evidence that the Lord uses my story to help bring healing to others, and I’m able to walk through life with those other people who come to me after I speak,” she said.