Slavery is alive and real in today’s world, yet many of us lead our lives blind to what is happening in our own backyards. The rise of social media has made it easy for pimps and flesh-peddlers to target, groom and sell women and children. The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry in the U.S.
There are 20 million to 30 million slaves in the world today. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children. The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that including U.S. citizens and immigrants, 57,700 people are victims of human trafficking.
A few weeks ago, I read an article published by RollingOut.com about a missing woman who was involved with a 23-year-old rapper and pimp who was luring young women into sex trafficking. He was arrested in an FBI sting in East Orange, New Jersey, where I was born and raised. I was horrified, to say the least. How could this be happening in my home town?
My initial thoughts were to pray for the continued safety of my daughter and granddaughter who live in that city. I then wondered how a young, 23-year-old man develops such a hatred and lack of respect for women that he would abuse them and force them to have sex with other men so that he can profit from their suffering.
Having been a victim of abuse, here is what I know about exploiters. They need to be in total control at whatever age, from 14 to 80. I’ve read articles that cite several reasons for the root cause of their issues – emotional neglect, witnessing or being a victim of abuse or consistently receiving disrespectful behavior. It saddens me that we as a nation cannot do more to prevent this pattern of behavior with proper intervention, treatment, education and the love and compassion that exists in our collective humanity.
I became more educated about this horrific travesty by a woman named Jacquelyn Aluotto, who has become a dear friend. Jacquelyn is a producer, director, and activist dedicated to saving shelters for homeless people through the eradication of poverty, violence, and abuse across America.
Her passion and dedication has spread to help eradicate human trafficking. She inspired me to support the fight. I am proud to be a part of the campaign for her company Real Beauty Real Women “Pucker Up for Change.” I was selected to participate as one of the many dynamic “Socially Conscious Fashionistas” representing the cause.
Unfortunately, I know what it feels like to be a young girl with no self-worth and how that can result in becoming easy prey for predators who are looking to exploit vulnerable girls and women. According to erasechildtrafficking.org, victims of trafficking are found to share similar life experiences:
57% had been sexually abused as children
49% had been physically assaulted
85% were victims of incest as girls, and 90% had been physically abused
61.5% were frequently hit, slapped, pushed or had objects thrown at them by a member of their household
40% of the above were kicked, hit, beaten, raped or threatened and/or attacked with a weapon by a member of their household
We owe it to our children and future generations to do our part to make the world a better place. We can start by understanding the indicators of human trafficking and where to report it. According to U.S. Department of State, the list of red flags includes:
Living with an employer
Poor living conditions
Multiple people in cramped space
Inability to speak to an individual alone
Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
Employer is holding identity documents
Signs of physical abuse
Submissiveness or fearfulness
Unpaid or paid very little
Under 18 and in prostitution
If you suspect someone may be a victim, be sure to call local law enforcement and the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888.To learn more on how you can support Real Beauty Real Women in the fight, click here.
I know this topic is deep, but my hope is that you are motivated to take an action to bring awareness and support for these victims.
Peace and blessings.