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Human Trafficking: Awareness Is Just The Beginning

If you’re not familiar with the term “human trafficking”, you’re not alone. Unfortunately. Far too many Westerners are either not aware of its existence – isn’t that something that stopped happening 150 years ago? – or they are not aware that it happens, every day, right in their own country.

I recently read a novel in which a thirty-ish Baptist woman had never heard of sex trafficking until she met a victim of this evil system. Sex trafficking is one – and perhaps the biggest – part of human trafficking. Typically, underage girls are either lured by men pretending to act nice and like they are going to help them, or they are straight-out kidnapped, and then those men prostitute the girls.

When it first came out that this full-grown American woman in the story had never even heard of sex trafficking – she believed that all prostitutes chose the profession voluntarily – I thought, “Gee, are there really Americans who are so clueless and sheltered that they don’t know about this stuff?”

A minute later I realized I was the pot calling the kettle black. One finger pointing at her, three more pointing back at me. DUH! I had never heard of modern-day human trafficking until I was in my mid-thirties!

While I believe the institutional church does more harm than good, part of the good it did in my life was to make me aware of this problem. One day when my husband and I were attending a Sunday morning service, a man who heads up a ministry called Project Rescue spoke. Project Rescue is called because it rescues children and young women from sex trafficking. I was horrified that such a thing even existed in this day and age.

But that was over in India and the surrounding countries. I didn’t consider that it might actually be happening in the Western world, let alone the United States.

Newsflash: people are being bought and sold for sex and labor every single day, in every single state in the United States.

Somebody you know could be part of the human trafficking system

Here is an article about a recent discovery in Connecticut where mentally ill, drug-addicted, and developmentally disabled young men have been forced into sex as part of a prostitution ring that provides “services” to wealthy Connecticut men. Apparently, the men with money in that state prefer anuses to vaginas.

What is the state doing about it? The judiciary committee at the state legislature has approved a bill that “would create a new felony charge of commercial sex abuse of a minor and increases the punishment for sex trafficking.” Specifically, human trafficking would be “punishable by up to 25 years in prison.” In addition, motel and hotel operators would have to require I.D. before renting a room, and would not be able to rent by the hour.

The bill also proposes to develop a plan to provide better support for young men – kids, really – struggling with mental problems and drug addiction.

Go, Connecticut state legislature! I hope this bill becomes law, and actually does some good.

This next one hits too close to home

I am a native of Minnesota. So when I found this article, I squirmed. It’s about how human trafficking has increased in Wisconsin, the state to the east. Fifty cases were reported in 2015, 63 last year, in 2016.

That’s just the REPORTED cases.

Most incidences were sex trafficking, two involved both sex and labor. And the majority of cases involved U.S. citizens, not foreigners. This time, the majority of victims were female, mostly adults but some teenagers.

In case you thought “brothels” were a thing of the past, a “necessity” for cowboys living in the Wild West, read that article. The word occurs twice.

You might think that 63 sounds like a pretty small number of people. No big deal, right?

Scroll down in that article and you will read that human trafficking “showed an increase of 35 percent in cases nationwide. The hotline and textline operators handled a record 8,042 cases in 2016.”

I repeat: these numbers represent the reported cases. As with child abuse, burglary, and many other “small” or hard-to-detect crimes, not all of incidences are reported. As a matter of fact, usually the cases of those kinds of crimes that are reported represent the minority of what actually happened. And again, the majority of cases involved U.S. citizens, not foreign nationals.

From Georgetown, Delaware

“Jorge Arcinieja, 55, was arrested and charged with human trafficking…” This happened after authorities kept an eye on a mobile home and saw suspicious activity, which led them to discover a twenty-five-year-old woman from the Dominican Republic in a bedroom, “along with items used in commercial sex trade” (whatever that last bit means).

Kudos to the neighbor who suspected illegal activity and called the police.

Here’s the full article.

Also on the continent…

On April 10, 2017, the Canadian T.V. News reported that 78 – count ‘em, 78 – people were arrested in a human trafficking investigation in London, Ontario. Eighteen women between the ages of 15 and 55 were found to be the victims.

“Police say officers seized drugs, cash and weapons, including knives, an expandable baton and a rifle,” the article states.

Seventy-eight people in a developed nation, trafficking women for sex.

Are you pissed off yet?

“But what can I do?”

First of all, if you’re a trucker, read this article. Basically, trucker Kevin Kimmel – who was also clueless about modern human trafficking until he performed this heroic deed – saw something suspicious happening in an R.V. and contacted the local authorities. As a result, a twenty-year-old woman was rescued from some heavy abuse and forced prostitution.

Kimmel says “that truckers tend to spend a lot of time in the places that victims pass through given the transient nature of their job.” Therefore, people who drive trucks for a living can keep their eyes and ears open and report suspicious activity. Some states are pushing legislation that would require would-be truckers to take a course in human trafficking awareness before obtaining their commercial driving license.

What if you’re not a trucker? The same principles apply: get educated about the problem of human trafficking, keep your eyes and ears open, and report suspicious activity. Remember, both men and women are used as sex and labor victims.

One more step you can take: Donate to CAST, or Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. This is a Los Angeles-based organization that actively and effectively fights against human trafficking, as well as has a system in place to help survivors. Click here to donate.

If you believe someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, cal the Human Trafficking Hotline (24/7) at 1-888-373-7888. Se habla español as well as other languages besides English.

You can also send a text to the BeFree Textline at 233733, which offers the same help to find safety and receive aftermath support.

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