By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TEN women who came forward to allege they were part of Peter Nygard’s alleged international sex trafficking ring were recognised yesterday for their “incredible bravery in the face of unimaginable odds” during a ceremony hosted by the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery (RAGAS).
The honoured women – from The Bahamas and America — were the first to come forward and expose Nygard’s alleged crimes.
They were presented the RAGAS’ Hero Award for Outstanding Courage, becoming the first recipients to ever receive such an award from the organisation. “Today is about the survivors,” RAGAS global chairman Dave McCleary said at yesterday’s virtual event.
“It’s about the ten women that we’re honouring today because your courage is absolutely incredible and the award is the first courageous women award that we’ve given from Rotary Action and we will do this annually in your honour but this is to celebrate your incredible bravery in the face of unimaginable odds, being the inaugural recipients of this award for the action group against slavery and hero award for outstanding courage.
“This is a global award and… I just want you to know that we as a community, as an organisation as an action group in Rotary, care about you and care about what you have done to make this a better world. You inspired other survivors to come forward and that’s what’s so amazing about what you did. You’re not only changing your life, but you are changing so many others and your ripple effect will go on for generations to come.’
Rotary Clubs of the Bahamas West Assistant Governor Carla-Card Stubbs also described yesterday’s event as a “proud day”.
She said it signifies the importance of being the agents of change and bringing awareness to issues that are plaguing nations worldwide.
She said: “One may wonder why Rotary would get involved in this? … But this is not about unproven accusations. This is about honouring those brave enough to speak. What this experience has taught us is that this happens all around us. This might be happening to persons we know and this is a challenge to help. This is about a recognition that we each have the obligation to help those who cannot help themselves and those who find it difficult to come forward and to get help.”
According to an indictment filed by the Southern District of New York last December, Nygard allegedly participated in a “decades-long pattern of criminal conduct involving at least dozens of victims in the United States, The Bahamas and Canada, among other locations.”
He has been charged with one count of racketeering, one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, three counts of sex trafficking of a minor and by force, fraud or coercion, one count of transportation of a minor for purpose of prostitution, two counts of transportation for purpose of prostitution and one count of transportation for purpose of prostitution and illegal sexual activity.
The assertions in the indictment largely mirror the allegations in a class-action lawsuit filed against Nygard in New York earlier in 2020.
Recipient Richette Ross, who has since identified herself as one of Nygard’s alleged victims, said: “First and foremost, I would like to give God thanks. I would also like to say thank you to the Rotary…and everybody who made this possible today for not only supporting us, but also giving us a voice.
“We are more than the voice in the darkness. We are more than just Jane Doe’s. We’re strong. We’re survivors. We’re conquerors and I just want to say thank you!”