Last night I helped spread awareness about the thing I most passionately oppose: human trafficking. At my high school, the Modern Abolitionist Movement, a club I have been a part of for two years now, held its second annual panel discussion on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11). We invited speakers from places such as the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Salvation Army, and the YWCA. We also had a local judge who has recently started Change Court, a program in Cincinnati in which victims of sex trafficking fight through both the legal and emotional processes to integrate back into society.
I had the awesome opportunity to act as a discussion moderator along with one of my closest friends. Even though this is a pretty small role, both of us were a bit nervous. Afterwards, however, we were ecstatic. We had learned so much and passed this information on to others as well.
So what did we learn? First of all, although labor trafficking is more common globally, the United States has more sex trafficking than labor. Most female victims of trafficking have a history of some type(s) of abuse before being trafficked. It is not usually an instantaneous abduction but rather a result of a series of chain events.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how trafficking plays out, I will give an example situation. After having a rough relationship with her family, a woman may become reliant on her new boyfriend. The boyfriend provides for her and gets her addicted to drugs. In order to have a supply of the drugs and a place to live, the woman owes her said boyfriend. Thus, prostitution is forced upon her. This is not the only way it happens, just one of many.
After becoming a victim, many women commit multiple other crimes such as drug use and theft. There is much debate on the legal side of things whether a victim should only be expunged of a prostitution conviction or of all convictions received while being trafficked. In Ohio, the SB4 bill, which supports the latter of the two, is in the process of being passed.
After the legal process, a victim must learn to emotionally cope with the trauma. 80% of women and 40-60% of trafficked men report feelings of depression a year after they escaped. Most victims suffer from PTSD and never fully recover, only learning to live with their history. Also, trying to do normal things in society becomes difficult. Finding an employer or a landlord that will accept a victim with their history is incredibly strenuous.
Sex trafficking is more common than many would like to admit, with 1 in 7 men buying or participating in commercial sex in some way. If caught buying commercial sex, a person can receive up to 60 days in jail, but rarely do the sentences reach this high of a number. By watching porn online or even hiring a stripper, you may be supporting the business.
What can you do to help? Talk about this problem! Do research! If you haven’t already, save the Human Trafficking Hotline in your phone: 1 (888) 373-7888. If you see anything suspicious, please report. Most traffickers are found because a random person has a gut feeling something is off and reports it. Random shops such as massage parlors and spas that are open until 1am are a major warning sign, so instead of talking about what perverted stuff must go on in there, report it! Also, please avoid participating in the commercial sex industry. If there is a demand, there is a business opportunity for traffickers. Along with these steps, you can attempt to buy fair trade products to help stop global labor trafficking.
Although this may seem, at times, a helpless case, you can do something. Just telling people about it helps. So thank you in advance for your assistance in furthering the cause of us modern abolitionists, and if you live in Cincinnati, be sure to come to the panel next year and participate in the Aruna run!
Upcoming blog posts: I plan on doing a post at the end of each month, giving a short review on every book I read in that time period. This seems like it will be more effective than choosing a few books to write lengthy reviews on.