As a teen, Shae Invidiata pledged to speak for the silent victims of human trafficking. Today, she’s working to change laws and lives
By Katharine Davis and Rebecca L. Olgeirson
It wasn’t the sand or surf of Hawaii that changed the life of Shae Invidiata, then a Canadian college student studying advertising in Honolulu. It was the people she passed on the street, the women who worked under the veil of night. It was the realization that no one knew these women’s stories – and worse, no one cared
On the day Invidiata’s parents dropped her off at college, they were uneasy.
“My dad looked around the neighborhood and said, ‘Am I crazy to leave you here?’” Invidiata says of her father, Christopher Invidiata, a Top 10 Worldwide RE/MAX Team Leader based at RE/MAX Aboutowne Realty in Oakville, Ontario.
The cause for his concern? Her dorm was actually part of a large hotel, divided in half. It stood on a street nicknamed “Candy Lane,” a reference to the women who lined the sidewalks.
Haunted by those women’s silent presence, Shae Invidiata learned their names, their ages and why they were there. In doing so, she discovered these women weren’t necessarily working the streets by choice, and they often weren’t of consenting age. Many were girls no older than 18.
Invidiata, now a Sales Associate on her father’s team, recalls a defining moment at age 19 that turned her concern into action.
“I remember sitting on the beach thinking, ‘If that were me, I’d be praying somebody would come to my rescue – somebody would tell the world that I haven’t chosen to be here and I need their help. It’s easy for us to assume somebody else will do something about it. But I thought, ‘If I don’t do it, who will?’”
So Invidiata became that person. In 2010, she founded Free-Them, an initiative that raises awareness and funds to eradicate human trafficking in Canada and around the world.
“People can’t fight something they’re not aware of,” she says. “These traffickers aren’t just stripping basic human rights; they’re stripping the soul of a human being. They’re stealing victims’ freedom, value, self-worth and innocence.”
Today, Free-Them works with law enforcement and government officials to enact change, introduce legislation and support the rescue of trafficking victims. Working closely with Member of Parliament Joy Smith, Free-Them serves as a stakeholder to the Canadian National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, a proposal that has since been adopted by the federal government. And Invidiata, who recently spoke at the National Human Trafficking Forum in Ottawa, works tirelessly to keep the cause a constant in the media, often appearing on local and national television programs.
“I believe we have a human responsibility to stand up and fight for those who are being silenced,” she says. “As long as I have a voice, I will stand for freedom and justice, and will do whatever I can to raise awareness.
“This is a hard, ugly topic, and there are days I just want to curl up because it’s so horrific and can be very draining. But when I meet a survivor or hear the story of a rescued girl who was once in darkness and basically hopeless and is now smiling again, that’s what I live for. The restoration of dignity and freedom – that’s what fuels my passion on a regular basis; that’s why I keep fighting.”
is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of and educating groups about the prevalence of human trafficking and sexual slavery. Learn more about the fight against human trafficking at freethem.ca or by following @Free_Them on Twitter