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An Unlikely Defender of Trafficked Women

An Unlikely Defender of Trafficked Women

How Jimmy Lee went from childhood bully to director of Restore NYC.

His time in South Africa also taught him about the importance of leveraging the political process to enact change. For this reason, Lee invests significant time and energy into advocating for policy decisions that will aid sex-trafficking victims. He is no stranger to press conferences and meetings with state and city officials. And the impact of Lee's involvement in the political realm has not just helped Restore NYC, according Dorchen Leidholdt, who leads the statewide non-governmental organization Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

"Jimmy has changed the way that key players in the system look at the issue of trafficking," Leidholdt says. "He made the decision to formally bring Restore into the work of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition and to join our campaign, which has been pivotal. He takes advantage of all the opportunities to advocate for trafficking victims and survivors. And male legislators can hear from Lee in a way they cannot hear from the rest of us. He demonstrates that this is not just a women's issue."

'Male legislators can hear from Lee in a way they cannot hear from the rest of us. He demonstrates that this is not just a women's issue.' ~ Dorchen Leidholdt, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Lee's desire to pursue justice for trafficking victims also informs his desire to build and deepen relationships with key players in the legal system and governmental agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As a result, judges, attorneys, and law enforcement officials often refer to Restore NYC foreign nationals who have been arrested but who may actually be victims. Before Restore's launch in 2009, no other organization in the New York City region was focusing solely on this segment of overlooked victims. Yet these are the women who may be the most vulnerable due to their immigrant status. As the son of Korean immigrants, Lee understands this.

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