There are things in this world that are so horrible, it is hard for the human mind to conceive. Human Trafficking is one of those things that to the average person is so dark, the human mind has difficulty comprehending. Here is something very scary – it could happen to your daughter, niece, grandchild, neighbor, student, or son. The point is that just because we don’t think about something does not make it go away and it does not keep our loved ones safe. I became aware of how horrible trafficking is when late one night I could not sleep so I watched a program on television about Sex Trafficking in Lithuania.
There was a young lady in her early 20s being interviewed. She told this horrible story about her family being poor and how her father sold her. She was very young when she was sold. This man took her to an apartment where the windows had bars on them, the door had many locks on it, and there was no way she could get out. He withheld food from her and kept her locked up. She was alone, afraid and hopeless.
Her first sexual encounter was with her captor. She began to tell the story about how one by one men would come in and she was required to do whatever they wanted her to do. She stated that at times there would be 20 to 30 men that she would have to have sex with a day. She stated that on rare occasions women would have sex with her. She had been doing this for so long she lost track of time and was clueless about how long she had been enslaved. One day her pimp unlocked the window and forgot to put the lock on it. She decided that rather than live in hell she would rather be dead, so she jumped 5 stories. Miraculously, she did not die. She was, however, paralyzed from her waist down. She was in the hospital for a while. When she was asked if she had any family, she told them “no.”
The day before she was to be discharged, in came her pimp who informed her that she would be leaving the hospital with him. She was taken back to the same apartment and immediately men started coming to the apartment to have sex with her. She was unable to feel anything at all from the waist down so in some ways that was a blessing. Her new condition eventually proved to be a problem because she was unable to maneuver without assistance which made her less profitable. One night her pimp came in and took her naked body and threw her in the trash. She was found by a kind person who took her home and cleaned her up and began taking care of her.
It took many years, but she was walking again, sometimes with great pain. At least she was mobile. I remember at the end of this story feeling nothing because my senses were overwhelmed and I did not know what to think. I thought about this story off and on for years. I rationalized that because this situation happened in Lithuania, it was sad, but there certainly wasn’t anything that horrible happening in the United States. Years after seeing that story, I was at a meeting with local business owners and there was a lady who spoke about sex trafficking. She was not talking about the other side of the world, but right here in North Carolina. I went to her and asked questions about how I could find out more information about trafficking in North Carolina.
She gave me information, and through that, I found out that North Carolina was in the top 10 states for trafficking in the US, and at the time, Asheville was ranked around 3rd city in NC. I was absolutely blown away. I was introduced to a lady through this program that did some teaching and training. We formed a great friendship. I found out a couple of years after meeting her that she had been trafficked. I would never have guessed that. She broke every stereotype I had in my brain, she is white, she is educated and she came from a prominent family. The closer we got, the more information she gave me. I was totally amazed to find out that her trafficker was her biological father.
She and her siblings were in this hell for most of their childhoods and people knew what was happening, but because of the status her father held in the community, nobody did anything. I then met another lady who also had been trafficked. She came from a dysfunctional household and was taken into custody in another state by social services. After several months of being raped by her foster mother’s boyfriend she decided to run away. She met a nice lady who took her in and made her feel very safe for the first time in her life. After a few months of taking care of her, the lady introduced her to a “friend” of hers. This male friend was very nice, as well, and they had great times together. One day she was drugged by this friend and put into the back of a tractor trailer. Thus began years of her being transported from one place to another and sold repeatedly. She is now out of the life, but she has a great deal of struggles. She knows that she does not want to go back to the streets, but has a difficult time with the demons from her past and how to come to terms with things. She fortunately has made some real healthy connections and is in the slow process of recovery.
The other case that made a significant impact on me was a young girl who met her trafficker at school. He made her feel so special and he was so cute. She was drugged and raped by numerous guys including the guy she thought cared about her. He then forced her to continue to have sex with various men, threatening to release nude pictures of her if she was not compliant. She reluctantly complied, afraid of what would happen if people saw her pictures. The thing that continues to haunt me is this – I have been in the human service field for over 25 years, how much did I miss? I had gone back over numerous cases and there are some where I am sure the children were trafficked. I think about what could have been different if I had known.
I am one person with a small agency and I cannot change the whole world, but I can be one of the voices of trafficking survivors and those still captive to say, “no more.” We all must decide what is important to us. What causes will we take up? Do you just make sure you take care of your own or those in your circle? My challenge to you is to expand your circle. The things that happen to your neighbors are important. What happens in your city is important, what happens in your country is important as well as what happens in the world. We must remember that everything has a ripple effect; it will touch your life somehow. We cannot get rid of crime without being willing to do something and we cannot have strong, vibrant, healthy children without being willing to get our hands dirty and say “no, not on my watch.”
You’re afraid because that world is scary. Me, too. It is very scary, very dark, and very twisted. I just think, “what if it were my child or my grandchild?” If I am not willing to do something, one day it could be. The power to make change is in your hands. There are agencies that are working to end trafficking, but they can only do so much because the power comes from you. Strong Families and Strong Communities are the greatest weapon to combat Human Trafficking and help survivors heal.
What to look for when it comes to human trafficking:
- Young girls with older boyfriends
- Tattoos that are barcodes, have crowns with someone’s name on them, or anything that looks like branding
- Submissive behavior, such as a kid that will never look up, very soft spoken, startle easily
- Missing a great deal of school
- Child suddenly has expensive items such as designer clothing, purses or other things of that nature
- Bruises or other signs of abuse
- Becoming more distant
- Running away for days at a time
What to do if you suspect someone is being trafficked:
- Report your suspicions. You can do this anonymously. Hotline number is 1-888-373-7888
- Our Voice also has a hot line 828-225-7576 or call United Way 211
- Don’t be afraid to speak to someone you suspect may be trafficked. When people feel invisible it is easier for them to tolerate abuse. You don’t need to say anything about what you suspect, you just want them to know you see them.
- Take down any license plate numbers or description of person they are with if it looks suspicious and give the information when you call the hotline.
- Spend quality time with your children. Tell them they are beautiful, precious, smart and that you love them. If you don’t tell them and enjoy being with them, someone else will.
- Know who your kid’s friends are and who their parents are.
- Make sure you meet the parents of your kid’s friends and that you talk with them and are on the same page.
- No is not a bad word, use it with your children.
- Teach your children the beauty of their body no matter what their size, shape or any other features.
- Teach your children about sex and create a comfortable atmosphere for them to openly talk and ask questions
- Have open communication with your child so they feel comfortable to talk to you, especially about the difficult topics
- Check your child’s social media. Let me repeat check your child’s social media. You get a chance to see what they are sending out, but you also see who they have friended
- Make friends with single parents who have children and must work. Watch out for their children.
- Teach your sons how to respect women and not objectify them.
- EDUCATE YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN, predators count on vulnerability and ignorance. Give them neither. There are all kids of resources
- Lobby for harsher laws for the traffickers and johns. We live in a world based on supply and demand, don’t make it easy for our children to be the commodity that is demanded and supplied.
Remember, You Have The Power
Stand Against Human Trafficking