Vanessa Bouché, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Political Science, Texas Christian University
Vanessa Bouché is internationally known for her research in both labor trafficking and sex trafficking. She’s a teacher, scholar, activist and entrepreneur.
She has been the principal investigator of several federally funded human trafficking projects totaling more than $1 million and is the architect of www.HumanTraffickingData.org, the largest open-access database of federally prosecuted human trafficking cases in the U.S.
Bouché has taken several groups of TCU students to New Dehli on a study abroad on transnational human trafficking.
The trip in June 2017 dramatically changed her life, when she and five students were meeting with some women from the brothels at a medical clinic run by NGO Shakti Vahini in the red-light district.
One woman challenged her, saying she was only there to exploit them for their stories.
Bouché asked her what she needed. The reply: “I need dignified employment to get out of this dirty business!” But there was no program in Delhi that could provide that.
The comment haunted her to the point that she was losing sleep, and she refused to be one more person in that woman’s life who said she wants to help and then finds it too difficult and walks away.
Ultimately, that Bouché and her husband, Noel, to found Savhera, an essential oil company employing sex trafficking survivors in Delhi, India and Dallas/Fort Worth.
In March 2019, she finally found that woman, who now works for Savhera.
Bouché serves on the board of directors for two local anti-trafficking organizations,
She was the 2018 recipient of the Texas Women’s Foundation Young Leader Award and the 2019 Heroes Award by Unlikely Heroes.
– Paul K. Harral
What advice would you give young women rising to a position of prominence?
Use your privilege to privilege others; laugh often (and don’t take yourself too seriously); embrace discomfort, don’t be afraid of the struggle, and always persevere; seek balance; be present in the moment; take the long view; never ever compromise your values; stop trying to control what people think; know thyself; and, above all else, love.
You could choose to spend your time many ways; why do you choose to spend it the way you do?
Time is by far our most valuable asset. Sometimes I wish I didn’t think about time so much, but I think about it constantly, not only when I’m rushing to meet a deadline or make an appointment, but also in quiet contemplation. The way we spend our time tells a story about who we are and what we value. … Thus, I aspire to spend my time on people and activities that are mutually life-giving, that reflect my values, and contribute to my present and future legacy.
Who is the most significant role model and/or mentor in your life?
My mom and dad were my first role models. They modeled love, sacrifice, and an intense work ethic my entire life. Beyond them, I have found many role models in history. I have always admired women suffragists and early feminists. … My role models and mentors tend to be those past and present figures who have strong moral convictions that may be contrary to the popular opinion of the time, face significant threats and hardship in the face of standing their ground and speaking the truth, but who persevere in spite of it. … They don’t accept the status quo because it’s too hard to change, but rather cast vision and lead the change even when it seems impossible or futile.
What book, movie, TV series or play influenced you growing up? Why?
Growing up, the book and movie that was most influential was Anne of Green Gables! I know, it’s a weird one, but I absolutely love Anne (with an “e”). … I love how she used her imagination to escape her hardships, allowing her to continue to dream and remain optimistic about the future. Because she never gave up on herself, others did not give up on her either.
What would you like for us to know that we might not know to ask?
I am an enneagram 7 (enthusiast) and an ENFJ in the Myers-Briggs (protagonist).