Currently over 160 countries the world over are affected by human trafficking. The United States is both a source country and a receiving country. There are still open sex slavery cases in every single state. Additionally, close to 2,000 children go missing in the United States on a daily basis. Monique Lessan, a private investigator out of Northern California, has made it her mission to put an end to both of these looming problems.
Monique was born to a strong and courageous woman in Tehran, Iran. Her mother, at 16, became one of Tehran’s first police women. She served for over 25 years and was honored by being made a captain. Monique later moved to France and then the United States. At 24, Monique has the misfortune of being kidnapped herself. Luckily for children all over, she escaped and in 1993 she became a licensed P.I.
While Ms. Lessan has worked on many cases throughout her career—from background checks to gathering evidence of adultery—her focus turned to child recovery in 1996. Since then she has been around the world working to return children to the safety of their families. Now Lessan is taking things one step further. “My focus became locating missing children because I was kidnapped I’ve learned many hard lessons and now I want to pass them on to the younger people. Make them aware of their surroundings.” she says.
Monique started a program—recently approved as a non-profit—called Teens Against Human Trafficking. She began by working with a group of students at Healdsburg High School, educating them about the facts of human trafficking and discussing the dangers and how to prevent it. The students then made 3 videos about human trafficking and presented them to over 300 of their peers. You can view their videos here: http://www.youtube.com/user/eyeinvestigateyou?feature=mhw5#p/a/u/0/GuCXKfo_F_g
Monique also was able to get the group of students air time on a local radio station. She was extremely proud and impressed at the knowledge they had accrued. “I got them on the radio and they were talking about sex trafficking as if they were experts.” Monique has since gotten to see her educational efforts take effect. “They had never thought of those ways of avoiding and deterring sex trafficking until this project. Now they know. They tell their friends, Don’t get into that car.’ Or, ‘ when you go hiking, pay attention to your surroundings and don’t get lost on your iPod because you don’t know who’s behind you.’ … Now they know to pass on the information.” Working with kids and watching them spread the massages they have learned has been her most memorable experience.
Now that her organization has been granted non-profit status, Monique Lessan hopes to see it grow in the future. She recognizes what a huge role the media plays in our everyday lives and wants to use it to further her message. “I want to use the media to take on a bigger scale and level, if at all possible, because that’s the only way. That’s why I’m writing books about the subject and speak in high schools to the students to bring awareness to them ”
And Monique has not forgotten about all of the children that go missing every day. A big goal for Ms. Lessan is to produce a show in the vein of America’s Most Wanted. She and her teams of investigators recover lost children live and also take donations from supporters to be used to rescue missing children at no cost to their families. When costs for retrieving a missing child are $30,000 minimum, this would be an enormous help to families everywhere.
When talking with teens, Monique stresses the little things that can keep you safe such as never accepting a drink from an open container and never getting into a car with someone unless you have known them well for years. One of her most important pieces of advice is, “Never be a victim. Whatever you do, always just protect yourself. Know your options. Knowledge is the truth and truth is knowledge. So if you know your options and you know what’s going on, you will never become a victim. And never have a victim mentality.”