"At a certain point she was able to escape," Bottani continued. "She became depressed and she went on the street. When she sought help, a taxi driver raped her. Then she was completely lost."
Another person brought the woman to the local Ugandan embassy, but she had to wait three days outside before being recognized as a Ugandan citizen and receiving help.
The embassy "brought her to the Church to the Catholic sisters. The sisters took care of her," Bottani recounted. "It was a very difficult situation. She had nothing to wear, she had depression."
"The Church paid for the flight back to her country. A sister took her to the airport. This is the importance of having a global network," said Bottani. "Through Talitha Kum we were able to inform the sisters, and we gave her the first support when she arrived, including health care."
UNICEF estimates about 21 million people have been trafficked globally, including about 5.5 million children. Women are the primary victims, making up an estimated 51% of victims. Men make up another 21%, girls make up 20%, and boys make up 8%, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime's 2016 report.
In the U.S., almost 9,000 cases of trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline in 2017, with the true numbers expected to be much larger, Fortune magazine reported in April 2019.
Trafficking is estimated to generate $32 billion per year, according to UNICEF. Other estimates are far higher.
While sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking, trafficking for forced labor is most common in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Sister Bottani warned about all forms of exploitation. From a global perspective, trafficked workers are forced to serve in industries like agriculture, domestic service, construction, and fishing. In some areas, trafficked people are forced to become beggars.
"People are forced into drug smuggling or becoming child soldiers," she said.
She also warned against simplifying a complex situation.
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"We have to be able to face the complexity, and we can only do it together," she said. "We can strengthen one another in hope, and in trying to understand the root causes of trafficking."
"Only in doing this work can we make a better world for everybody," she added.
For Bottani, anti-trafficking efforts need support from everyone.
"Every community in the Church can support the work done, not only financially but also with prayer," she said. "To pray but also to try to identify how we can support concretely."
Bottani noted the Feb. 8 International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. This day was entrusted by Pope Francis to women and men religious, with Talitha Kum in charge of the campaign.
On the matter of action, she cited the simple example of volunteers at women's shelters who care for children when the women are undergoing training. These women often lack such a network of local support.