From going undercover dressed as a nun or pole dancer to speaking directly to child victims as young as four, Lydia Cacho has doggedly collected evidence of a rampant sex slave trade in Mexico. Its tentacles stretch from the mafia all the way up to some very high-ranking government officials. It's a quest that's seen her kidnapped, then imprisoned for her trouble...and still facing constant death threats.
Cacho's journey into this murky world started when she founded a high security shelter for battered and sexually-exploited women and children in the resort town of Cancun, where she lives.
Following in her mother's activist footsteps, her first attempts to raise the issue of violence against women were on a local radio show. After being visited by a group of women who begged for protection against their violent husbands, she went about finding a safe place for them. The Cancun shelter has now been running for 10 years.
Since then, Cacho has become a humanitarian "force of nature," regularly putting her life on the line in the name of social change. Her tales of adventure are grim and extreme, as she recounts surviving abduction, jail and torture by state agents, before garnering protection from the likes of Amnesty International and the authors group PEN.
In this riveting session from the Sydney Writers Festival, Cacho says taking on the sex traffickers of Mexico wasn't something she chose, it happened more accidentally.
Lydia Cacho is in conversation with Sydney-based journalist Mara Moustafine.
Lydia Cacho is a journalist, author and feminist activist against violence. She founded a high-security shelter for battered and sexually exploited women and children.
Cacho is the first woman in Mexican history to have taken to trial an organized crime ring of child pornography, sexual tourism and women's trafficking.
Currently she is a columnist on "El Universal," and a workshop teacher on successful approaches to help trafficking victims. Her new book is Slaves of Power: A World Map of Sex Traffickers.
Mara Moustafine is a writer, historian and tribunal member. She has previously worked as an Australian diplomat and national director of Amnesty International Australia and been president of Sydney PEN.
Her award-winning book, Secrets and Spies: The Harbin Files, which draws on Soviet secret police files to expose the fate of family caught in Stalin's purges, was recently published in China.