“Right Here In America”

Recently there was a bust in Georgia of an “alleged” sex slavery ring. I read the article (http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/19/inside-look-how-an-alleged-sex-slavery-ring-is-dismantled/) and I was left with so many questions. First of all, what part of this is “alleged”? “An agent presses against a light blue wall and it gives way. Behind it is a makeshift room made of foam insulation and a cheap plywood frame. The woman inside is believed to a victim of a human trafficking ring that law enforcement agents busted during a four-state coordinated raid Wednesday. She is on a small bed with a thin mattress on springs. A large free-standing mirror sits to the side, and clothes are strewn across the floor.” I myself have never seen a sex trafficking ring operation, but anytime there are people living in secret rooms behind walls made of plywood, I have more than just suspicions that they probably aren’t there by choice. I read on through the article, noting that there were 11 people rescued that day. 11. I am overjoyed that there are 11 fewer human beings enslaved, but at the same time it is so disheartening. It took 120 agents from 10 law enforcement agencies to rescue just 11 people when there are millions more still out there waiting for someone to help them. If law enforcement were to carry out the same simultaneous rescue operation for every trafficking victim in the world, to rescue the 27 millions people in trafficking worldwide (stophumantrafficking.org) it would take approximately 297 million agents. That is A LOT of agents.

The article goes on to describe the procedure and schedule that the agents took: step by step. To me it seems so simple: Learn of scum bags trafficking people. Arrest said scum bags. Scum bags rot in prison. If only it was that easy. There is so much coordination and planning that goes into these busts that they can take months to set up. On top of that everyone has to make sure that evidence is going to stand up in court and every move the agents make is completely by the book; no one wants to see the traffickers get off on a technicality. As much as it ticks me off that it takes months and months for law enforcement to do these busts (I’m the type of girl who wants to kick down doors, dressed in all black and rescue people Mission Impossible style), I understand that’s just how the legal system works. My only problem with this whole news story stems from one anchor that I happened to hear talking about the bust. In introducing as an upcoming story, he said something to the effect, “Coming up next, a human trafficking bust, right here in America.” Right here in America? Is he trying to suggest that this is some kind of fluke? Trafficking of all kinds is HUGE in the United States. I was so shocked that a reporter would say something, that is to me, so ignorant. That kind of language, “right here in America”, only perpetuates to the public that trafficking is a rarity here. Even overseas, a nice chunk of people purchasing sex trafficking victims and Americans traveling abroad. The typical mindset of people in the U.S. is still that trafficking is a “third world” problem. Even just from “liking” the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking’s Facebook page, I’m constantly seeing a constant stream of posts about different trafficking cases happening presently, most of them “right here in America”. So many people want to send aid overseas to help with trafficking there (and I fully support that) but what about the victims at home? How can we, as United States citizens, really do our part to eradicate slavery if we allow trafficking to persist in our own country? It’s great to help those suffering in other countries, but we mustn’t forget that there are over 2 million people trafficked in the United States. Slavery is still an equal opportunity disease.

Putting an end to slavery

A 15-year-old girl was on her way home from school in Orlando when the unthinkable happened. A married couple drove up and the husband jumped out and kidnapped her. For a month, the girl was abused and forced into prostitution. Luckily, she was found and was rescued from this nightmare she was forced to live. The married couple was arrested and pleaded guilty to sex trafficking charges, but not all stories end this way.

In the past, if a teenager was found to be involved in prostitution they may have been put into a juvenile detention program. But now, as of Jan. 1, 2013, the Safe Harbor Act allows the state to provide safety, medical treatment, therapy and shelter to these child victims of human trafficking.

It is estimated that 1.8 million children worldwide are forced into the commercial sex industry.  Many people wonder, how can this sort of thing happen in some of these countries? This type of thing could never happen in the U.S., right? But it is happening here. Even in Florida.

Since January 2010, there have been 1,266 cases in Florida of alleged human trafficking involving child sexual exploitation. Human trafficking also includes involuntary labor, servitude and debt bondage, and Florida has the third highest volume of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Take the time to reflect and speak out against the issue of human trafficking. Many Florida anti-trafficking organizations will be hosting events that will help shed light on human trafficking.

It is important that we continue to educate people on the fact that slavery is still occurring in the U.S. The more we talk about this issue, the better chances we have to identify, rescue and restore these victims.

If you suspect any child is a victim of human trafficking, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela

-Giselle Rodriguez

A Reason Why?

I’ve spent so much time the pay few weeks trying to think of a new angle to approach these posts with. I want to examine all the sides of the story. There is so much chatter surrounding the victims and I’ve talked about female traffickers before, but what about male traffickers? What causes someone to wake up one day and decide to go into the slave business? I like to believe that most people are inherently good, but I can’t think of a word to describe traffickers other than “evil”. I firmly believe that a lack of education in many respects plays a huge role in why men traffic, the same way a lack of education leaves some societies still denying women the chance to go to school or blaming the woman for her own rape. If men are being taught that women are beneath them, able to be controlled, it’s no wonder men have started selling them the same way they would cattle. People (curiously, mostly men) like to say that women have achieved equality with men in recent years. In the United States, we’re coming closer, but the fact that girls still have to be fearful, walking alone at night, of predators lurking in the shadows proves that we’re not as close some would like to think. In other countries around the world, forget about walking at night, in many places a woman can’t even walk around alone period. This gap in the rights of men and women is still keeping women in the position of the “weaker” sex, the more easily victimized gender. While I do not condone or make excuses for anybody that partake in the trafficking of people, I can recognize why that might happen in many parts of the world.
The second issue that puzzles me about traffickers is how a family, husband & wife, can traffic people. I heard about a husband/ wife operation in which the trafficking victims were forced to work in a restaurant all day and then were brought to the traffickers’ home and made to do the cooking and cleaning, even babysitting. Here are these innocent people that this couple saw as inhuman enough to keep as slaves, and yet they have them caring for their children? Are you kidding me? That makes zero sense to me. Now their kids being brought up in this environment, teaching this behavior to the next generation. Does this couple not love each other or the children? I don’t see how anyone capable of feeling anything even close to love can enslave another person. These are the questions that keep me up at night. Not only do we have to rescue the trafficking victims but we have to figure out a way to change how people think about others. We need to make people see that selling humans is not an acceptable way to make a living. Period.