Human Trafficking- No, it doesn’t happen here…does it?!
Last weekend, my husband, daughter, and I rented the movie Taken. The topic of human trafficking was not foreign to us, as our church brings it to the forefront, and recently an inspired twenty-something friend of mine did a huge awareness campaign about this awful reality at a local junior college. However, to sit with my lovely, young daughter, imagining that she could be the victim of such a crime, stirred something inside me. What got me ranting and raving was how Hollywood glossed over (spoiler alert to the movie’s end here) the traumatic effects of being a sex slave. When the character in the movie gets rescued, she seemingly returns to her life, emotionally unscathed. As a therapist who worked with sexual abuse victims, some ritualistically abused, this is SO unrealistic–the recovery is slow. Should a girl actually survive kidnapping, heroin addiction, and being sold into sex slavery…the trauma would be monumental!
What alarmed me was this: my daughter went to school the next Monday and talked about the topic of human trafficking with her high school friends. Most of them didn’t even know that this existed! Certainly not in the U.S.! Sadly, it does.
According to the UN, up to 4 million women and children worldwide are trafficked around the world, being forced into prostitution. It is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, earning 32 billion dollars in the U.S. The average age of the victim: 12. TWELVE! What were you doing when you were twelve? I was learning the hustle, wearing satin blue shorts, and listening to the latest Bay City Rollers’ 8-Track. These twelve-year-old’s are drugged, beaten into submission, raped, tortured, starved, given forced abortions if they become pregnant, and then told that their families or friends will be tortured or killed if they run away. And yes, this IS happening in your state, as well as Africa, the Middle East, Western Europe, and South East Asia.
Some experts report that as many as 750,000 women and children have been trafficked INTO the United States. You know that massage parlor that has that “funny” feel to it?…See the articles below with the names the Polaris Project. They have targeted such “massage parlors” where Thai girls as young as 9 years old have been kidnapped from Thailand, trafficked, and sent to the U.S. to become sex slaves.
Other S.E. Asian gangs in California have focused on 11-14 year old girls in their own culture, beating them, raping them, then trafficking them within the U.S.
In my research about human trafficking, I stumbled upon one very startling and sad fact: women play a leading role in recruiting these precious young girls in the sex trade industry. What?! Doesn’t that go against every maternal instinct in a woman? Yet, think about it…where do these girls go once they’ve outlived their “careers” as sex slaves. Ever heard of identifying with your offender? It happens quite often. Victims become the victimizers. They see no way out, and this is their life. It’s twisted, it’s disturbing, and it is a reality.
So, why am I choosing to discuss this, of all things?
(1) I am the mother of a teen girl and she has teen friends, and they are constantly pushing the envelope of independence. I don’t want to terrify them. I want them to be aware. When one of our cousins chose to travel Europe, she did it in a platonic, co-ed group: two guys, two girls. They stayed together, didn’t wander off one-on-one with locals, and made a pact to watch one another’s backs. Yes, things could have gone awry. However, being in a co-ed group may have kept them safe.
(2) To raise awareness. At the bottom of this article are websites directing you to more information about human trafficking, and who you can call if you suspect someone is being trafficked, or if something seems suspicious. The Polaris Project, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, opened a hotline in ’07. By June of 2012, they had received over 54,000 calls. Their national number is 1-888-373-7888. On their website, they give examples of various types of sex trafficking, and how as a nation, we’ve turned a blind eye.
(3) I have an exciting interview coming up! A couple of months ago, I read Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave, by Sibel Hodge, a novella which has been listed as one of the Top 40 books about human rights. Sibel will be on sipnsharewithsusan.com in the next couple of weeks. I wanted all of my readers to have an understanding of this important topic before our interview. I strongly urge you to grab a copy of her book, available on Amazon.
I know that this has been a heavy topic. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Sometimes we have to get “real” and talk about the “stuff” that isn’t pretty, or fun, or getting press. It’s too important to gloss over what should be headline news every day.
Remember being 12?…Yeah, let’s help every twelve-year-old girl have her memory untainted, and filled instead with the ordinary, the best friends, the catty-girl stuff, the fashion trouble, the gossip, the silliness, and everything else that made twelve a passage, not an end.
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