Right Under Our Noses

My sociology class on homelessness began with the familiar self-introductions. I said a few words about myself, my major, and my after-graduation career goal, which is to help bring awareness to a huge and growing problem, human trafficking, especially of children. Afterward, a classmate sought me out saying she’d done a lot of research on trafficking. “Let’s stay in touch,” she said.

Her 16-year-old daughter had been a victim.

Human trafficking: Right under our noses
The problem is huge, but people are largely unaware. The video by the Department of Homeland security is one that brings attention to the issue’s invisibility.

DHS Blue Campaign Against Human Trafficking

The DHS Blue Campaign is centered around the victims who have been duped by traffickers into traveling to the U.S. under the pretext of realizing the American Dream. Once here, the immigrants’ passports are seized and they are put to work as slaves. 75% are sold to the sex industry, half are children.

My classmate worked exhaustively for more than a year-and-a-half to get her daughter back, with little help from authorities. Persistence and luck brought reunion, but their story is rare. Only 1% of victims are rescued.

The number who are enslaved (human trafficking) is staggering. So much so that it’s difficult to fathom. So campaigns have begun with two approaches.

  • to bring awareness such as in the Blue Campaign, and
  • to appeal for action to save just one.

The A21 Campaign in Europe has a series of videos to educate the public and a theme that invites us to act: Just Save One.

A21 Campaign: Natalia’s Story

Just Save One
You may be related to someone who has lost a family member to this industry. Know what to look for. Just save one.

Minnesota Efforts
Two organizations in Minnesota are working to put an end to trafficking of women and girls in the state.

  • Breaking Free, helps provides safe harbor and temporary housing, and tools for continued freedom for women who have escaped.
  • MN Girls Are Not For Sale is an awareness campaign funded by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

In addition to bringing awareness forward, both organizations provide information, resources, and advocacy. They have been successful in changing laws to ensure prostitutes are classified as victims. They support efforts to increase the arrests and prosecution of pimps and johns.

Changing attitudes
Even so, cultural attitudes are slow to change. According to an ABC Nightline special “Hidden America”, in “one year one precinct in New York City charged 400 women with prostitution, but only 10 pimps or johns.” Prostitution is often seen as as a public nuisance rather than the face of a human rights problem.

A common misconception is that prostitutes are independent and can make a lot of money. That is rare. Most prostitutes (adults and children) are controlled, manipulated, and abused by pimps. As mentioned in “Hidden America” documentary, “They are not criminals, but hostages walking among us.”

Remember my classmate? You might think her daughter’s story was an isolated or unusual case. In 2003, Minneapolis, Minnesota was identified by the FBI as one of 13 cities with a large concentration of child prostitution enterprises. Yes, here in the U.S., young people are coerced in a variety of ways, right in public, right under our noses.

  • Recruiters know how to spot a runaway looking for a night’s shelter
  • A teenager answers an online ad for a “job opening”
  • An addict is just looking for a quick high
  • A “friend” introduces another friend to a guy…

Take notice of the people around you.

Suspect trafficking? Contact authorities.

Additional statistics

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About Bev Forsman

I am fascinated by what the world reveals, and I see life circumstances as windows of wisdom. I have held and continue to nurture a life-long interest in the human condition. In addition to introspection, curiosity, and wonder, I list the following credentials: parent, grandparent, life-partner, daughter, sister, aunt, and Dharma Transmission.

5 thoughts on “Right Under Our Noses

  1. This article in the Star Tribune bolsters the points made in your post: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/290152131.html

    Someone I know in law enforcement told me once that Great Lakes port cities (such as Duluth) are very busy trafficking areas, but are not on people’s radar. Once traffickers get someone through the lakes and out onto the open sea, they can go just about anywhere. Very scary stuff, which I had never considered for a moment before she told me.

  2. Thank you for responding.

    I couldn’t find the info on your link, but there was a link on the page that led to this North Dakota trafficking story: http://www.startribune.com/nation/290311801.html

    I have heard the same about the Duluth port. This is a news article about efforts in Duluth that was published in August last year.
    http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/Undercover-operation-nets-six-arrests-for-prostitution-trafficking-272719011.html

    Bev

  3. Hey Bev, I can sure appreciate this article. It is timely. I have actually done my internship with The Enitan Story. They have been supported by Breaking Free. The Ee nitan Story’s mission is to Advocate for victims of human trafficking and empower survivors. Their website is http://enitan.org/ Have a look if you want.

    1. Thanks Brandt,
      I hadn’t heard of this organization but will be checking them out. I appreciate the link. I appreciate the educational and training opportunities listed on their site.
      I’m so glad that people are becoming more aware. I’m grateful to for doing service-learning at a place that addresses these issues.
      Bev

  4. The fact that there was a law made to classify prostitutes as victims reminds me of the law for my group where someone who overdoses cannot be prosecuted for calling 911 for help. Laws like these help them to get help when they need it and not worry about legal repercussions.

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