One trend we are seeing here in my area is a huge increase in the number of children forced into prostitution. There have been large sting operations in the newspaper documenting a few successful attempts to infiltrate these groups and arrest the ring-leaders. However, for every success, we know there are large numbers that go undetected. We have learned of large groups of middle school girls that leave after school on Friday and are shipped through 3 states, forced to have sex with large numbers of men or to pose for pornographic pictures, only to return home Sunday night or Monday morning, in time for school. Families of these young girls are told they have no choice - either they let these girls go or risk being killed. With one gang, their focus were on families here illegally. The family feared being deported and this fear was further used to force cooperation
When people think of human trafficking, they think of immigrants, usually here illegally, being forced across state lines. That is sometimes the case, but not always. The biggest misconception about human trafficking is that it only involves the poverty stricken and immigrants. The truth is that human trafficking doesn't discriminate. It targets males and females, old and young, poor and rich. The Polaris Project is one organization combating human trafficking. It is named after the north star that guided slaves along the underground railroad toward freedom. It's website features testimonials from some survivors.
How many of us can relate to Dawn, from Canada, who says:
My name is Dawn and I am a daughter, sister, mother and contributing member of society. I am also an abused and molested child, former drug addict and prostitute. My life started out fairly normally up until my parents divorced when I was six years old..............................I have often heard men say that I had a choice, and I did, it was either work as a prostitute or starve to death because it is illegal in Canada to work at 12, not to mention that no one will hire you if you have no address and are only 13 or 14............................I got into prostitution at 16 when my girlfriend told me she could help me make enough money for a hotel room and living money. She had an older friend who liked to have 'parties' with several young girls and I could come if I wanted to. I would make a few bucks. The 'parties' involved several older men looking for sex with young girls…. at the first one I slept with 4 men and made $400.00 but I felt ashamed and remember crying while these men had sex with me. These “parties” continued for a long time....................The road back has been long and hard for me. I have had many defeats and some pretty nice victories as well. It has taken me close to 11 years to really feel as though I have come through the majority of the fire. And on the really hard days I miss my former friend...cocaine. But I know that is not the way. I have so much to lose, a wonderful family, good job, academic career and so many other thing. For the first time in my life the good out weighs the bad. I feel proud and lucky that I am still alive today to tell you my story. So the next time you see a woman on the street try to think of where she has come from before you judge.
With the increase in "sexting" how many young teens will be able to relate to Theresa, another survivor of human trafficking who says:
The late-night calls began when Theresa Flores was 15. In 1980, before everyone had a cell phone, the private phone that Flores' parents had installed in her bedroom was a luxury. But it nearly proved her undoing. Minutes after getting a call, Flores would silently slip out of the house, cut through the backyard and get in a car waiting at the curb. She would then be whisked away from her home in an affluent Detroit suburb to homes and hotels, anonymous places where she was forced to have sex for hours with strangers. "I can't describe to you the feeling of terror. No child should ever have to know that kind of fear. I didn't know what I was going to have to endure that night, for how long, or if I was going to come back home." What started innocently with Flores' infatuation with an older male classmate turned to date rape caught on film by some of the rapist's friends. They used the photos to blackmail the girl into sexual slavery that lasted two years and involved hundreds of men.
For more survivor testimonies, see here.
After reading these accounts, especially Dawn's, I realize perhaps how close I came to meeting a similar fate. How many abuse survivors did whatever they had to in order to escape the abuse, only to fall into worse situations? When I read accounts like these, I realize that I am fortunate in many respects to have survived with my life, even as difficult as that life is sometimes.