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Coders Who Survived Human Trafficking Rewrite Their Identities


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AnnieCannons grad and teacher's assistant

Most of the developers at AnnieCannons assume a pseudonym as a safety precaution.

Credit: Alma Haser and Maria del Rio

At a family center in downtown Oakland, 11 students at AnnieCannons are training with two lecturers and two teaching assistants. For the first six weeks, students spin up on basic digital literacy, then they spend up to six months learning programming languages. The coders are also encouraged to pitch products of their own, and they often come up with ones to help victims of abuse and exploitation. Coding is about identifying problems and finding solutions, says Jessica Hubley, one of the founders of AnnieCannons, a nonprofit that teaches coding to survivors of human trafficking and gender-based violence.

In recent years, Catie Hart has spent her time both as a lecturer at AnnieCannons and as a human trafficking adviser to places like the San Francisco Police Department. But when she was 18, Hart was coerced into sex work by a man she met just after she had arrived in San Francisco. After more than seven years, she broke away, found her way to UC Berkeley, and got a degree in sociology.

These days Hart is spending more time at AnnieCannons. "For the first time in my life, I have shed survivor or victim as my identity," she says. "I was having to survive on being a 'survivor,' because that's how I was making money, speaking about what happened to me. Now I want to talk about coding."

From Wired
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