A survivor of human trafficking is speaking out for survivors of the Hamas massacre

Brook Parker-Bello, an outspoken activist against gender-based violence and human trafficking, will use the experiences and stories she heard during a trip to Israel to speak out for victims of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre

On the surface, Brook Parker-Bello has little in common with the hostages kidnapped from Israel and held in Gaza since Oct. 7.

She is an actor, author and activist from Los Angeles who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Obama White House for her work fighting sex trafficking.

But Parker-Bello felt a deep connection with those who experienced the Oct. 7 terror attacks firsthand. As a teenager, she was kidnapped and trafficked for years between Nevada, California and New York until a police sting ended her abuse.

“I know what it’s like to be in mental anguish and psychologically distraught, dealing with PTSD, depression, anxiety and challenges that are really hard to understand, and that sometimes rear their heads later,” Parker-Bello told JI in an interview following her recent visit to Israel.

Now, she is working on a documentary, with Rova Media, set to be released later this year that captures the essence of her trip set in the context of her own life experiences.

Parker-Bello, founder and CEO of More Too Life, an organization that advocates and supports victims of human trafficking and sexual violence, told JI that only by visiting Israel in person, can “you begin to understand what is really taking place there and you see stuff that you might not hear or see in the media.”

“When you’re meeting individuals face-to-face, you can also encourage them,” said the author and entrepreneur, who is also creating an online mental health support platform for victims of human trafficking and sexual violence, explaining the impetus for her trip to Israel.  

Parker-Bello, who refers to Israel as a “small-big nation,” told JI that she had spent a lot of time in the Jewish state previously and that she was not only “in tears” following the brutal Oct. 7 terror attack, but was also confused and frustrated by the reaction of organizations and activists who usually stand up for women’s rights.

“I was uncertain why people were reacting like that; it was sort of a conflict within a conflict and even early on people were beginning to take sides and not try to support or understand the victims,” she said.

“I thought maybe it was because they didn’t understand the violence that had happened to children and girls and women of all ages, as well as others,” Parker-Bello recalled. “I thought that they were afraid of the polarization because this conflict is so political, and they were putting that before the fight against violence and terror.”

But, she added, “anywhere in the world where we see gender-based violence, we must fight against it.”

“As someone who supports the nation of Israel, I also hate the victimization of victims and am concerned about what happens to them regardless of where they’re from,” Parker-Bello continued.

In Israel, the Miami-based activist met with families of the hostages and survivors of the Nova Music Festival, who described to her seeing their friends attacked, raped and murdered. Parker-Bello also met with some of Israel’s top female leaders, including First Lady Michal Herzog and Lihi Lapid, a journalist and author – and the wife of former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

But it was her time at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, where she met and interviewed relatives of those who are still being held captive in Gaza, that moved her most profoundly.

“I know what it’s like to be in mental anguish and psychologically distraught, dealing with PTSD, depression, anxiety and challenges that are really hard to understand, and that sometimes rear their heads later,” Parker-Bello, herself a survivor of rape and sexual abuse, told JI.

“I was there to listen, just to listen,” Parker-Bello added, describing an “extraordinary” meeting with Yarden Gonen, sister of Romi Gonen, who was taken hostage from the music festival and is still being held by Hamas.

Brook Parker-Bello (Photo: Rova Media)

“During the interview, she said to me, ‘Dr. Brooke, you’re being here gives me strength – hearing about your survival from human trafficking and just the fact that you came here from the United States,’” Parker-Bello said. “She told me that she felt a force from me and that she did not know how things would manifest day to day but that I had given her an influx of hope in a way that she had not experienced during other interviews.”

In her trademark soothing voice, Parker-Bello told JI that she, in turn, was uplifted by the feedback that her visit might have helped Gonen and her family in some way.

“I have some extraordinary women in my own life who have been there for me,” she continued. “I really wanted to be there in that sense as well and that gave me confirmation.”

Parker-Bello said it “was the same with everyone I met in Israel.”

Asked why she believed that some women’s rights groups and individuals usually active in speaking out against gender-based violence had cast doubt on the suffering of Israeli women and girls on Oct. 7, Parker-Bello cited the words of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin: “There is the quote that says ‘we must fight terrorism as if there is no peace process and work to achieve peace as if there is no terror.’”

“This means that we have to fight terrorism together,” she said, adding that for many people they want to draw some balance between Israelis and Palestinians.

“I also say if there are victims of this type of violence in Palestine, I don’t want to see any woman or girl go through this either,” she said, adding, “I think one thing has nothing to do with the other.”

“You can fight absolutely against the rapes, the torture, the violence, which was profoundly sick, but neutrality can never win conflicts and war,” Parker-Bello observed. “Neutrality, or anything that is watered down, is not going to gain credence in the natural sense or the spiritual sense – that is why I have been unabashed and unafraid to say how I feel about it, and to be loud and proud about it.”

She noted that “eventually the U.N. and UN Women and other organizations began to hear of the stories, but the politicization of things is why they didn’t speak out – it was the fear of rubbing someone the wrong way, the fear of losing funding and the fear of someone somewhere no longer supporting their organization that made them want to stay somewhat neutral.”

Following her trip to Israel and the stories she heard here – including some very disturbing accounts of the violence that happened on Oct. 7 – Parker Bello said she planned to make her newly developed mental health technology, which includes a digital system that offers support for victims of violence, available in Israel.

She also said she would meet with leaders in the U.S. to share what she saw and heard in Israel, with a focus on how to handle future terror attacks anywhere. 

“Israel is close to my heart, and I have a deep connection to the place and the people there,” she said, adding, “Israel has given me some of the most extraordinary experiences that have catapulted my life forward as a former victim of torture, human trafficking and rape.”

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