Ashley Judd

Jemal Countess/

With Angelina Jolie otherwise engaged, the job of global do-gooder has temporarily fallen to fellow big-hearted star Ashley Judd.

The De-Lovely actress and global ambassador for YouthAIDS spoke to the United Nations' General Assembly as part of a thematic debate on human trafficking Tuesday, shedding light on global plight based on her recent firsthand experience.

"I know that the unheard are helped when they are heard," she said, adding that she had made "sacred promises" to tell the victims' stories. "I know that compassionate listening helps me, and my goal was to help the U.N. help them."

The 40-year-old said she "stumbled upon" the $32 billion-a-year industry during a 12-nation, three-week humanitarian mission in support of her pet cause, public health, which took her to India, Rwanda and the Congo, among other Third World countries.

During the trip, Judd said she visited brothels, slums, hospices and various medical facilities and heard from the victims firsthand. An estimated 2.5 million people are victimized by human trafficking every year.

A way to potentially minimize that, she said, was through the help of local stars, athletes and mass media and changing accepted behaviors.

"Changing cultural norms is slow and hard, but it is at the core of the fight," she said, adding that simply talking to people could also open doors.

"It is so small, but it is changing the consciousness of one individual that can create a paradigm shift in an entire community."

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