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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Minnesota and U.S. Victim and Perpetrator Statistics
- DHS Myths and Misconceptions
- Breaking Free Profile of Victims
- MN Girls are Not for Sale Get The Facts
- Need help?