When I saw the trailer for the movie Taken with Liam Neeson
, I have to admit, I was more interested in the bad-ass, action-packed individual justice that the main character was layin’ down on the creepy perpetrators than I was learning about the horrors of human trafficking. (I’ve self-diagnosed that I have some special gland that contains a big ol’ reserve of testosterone that immediately begins to secrete the very second I start picking out a movie to watch. Couldn’t care less about sappy romance on the big screen but give me some painful fight scenes and some stuff blowing up and I’m SO there. But I digress…) The point is, I wasn’t so much thinking about the story that the movie was really telling. A story of young people (in this case teenage girls and young women) being literally hunted, stalked, kidnapped, and drugged for the sole purpose of introducing them into the world of forced prostitution. For the sole purpose of someone else making money off of them because yet another someone else wanted to use them for their own sick purposes.
In the movie, these girls were basically drugged up to the point of barely knowing what was going on, then served up to eagerly awaiting men to do whatever their payment gave them access to do. In one scene, I recall a long line of men waiting to walk into a construction trailer. Once they paid and walked in, you could see that the trailer was sectioned off into what appeared to be about 4-foot wide areas, divided by makeshift curtains. Behind each curtain, these men went in to do the business they paid for with a woman or girl who had been drugged into a complete stupor. Dozens of these “rooms” were in the construction trailer, each with a man taking what he paid for from a girl who was there against her will. I was sickened beyond belief at the thought that someone could even think up such a sick think to put into a screenplay, let alone thinking that this *might* actually ever really happen anywhere.
Little did I know…
The rest of that movie presented me with much more to ponder [big fat understatement]. Truthfully, I was severely disturbed by it. Afterward I could barely sleep. I hopped online and tried to read what I could about trafficking. The simple fact that there was so much to read turned my already queasy stomach. I learned that human trafficking is a lucrative business [big fat understatement] in many countries around the world, including the US. I learned that it was the second largest organized crime focus in the world, with only drug trafficking topping the charts in the world of all things terrible. I was overwhelmed by facts and figures with numbers too big for me to fathom. I closed my laptop thinking that, although it was a real problem, it was just too big for someone like me to actually do anything about. Besides, even if I could, where would I begin?
Enter Doma. The founder of Doma International, Julie Clark, came to our church a while back and gave a presentation as kind of an “HT 101.” There I learned that this whole human trafficking thing isn’t something that happens just in poor Asian countries or near the Mexican borders. She shared with us the unfortunately true story of a middle-class teenage girl from West Jefferson who thought she had found a boyfriend to party with. Instead, she found a young man who introduced her to large amounts of crack over a long weekend. He suggested that she come downtown to Columbus where they could get easier access to their drugs. As they hung out together, he freely gave her highly addictive amounts, and she assumed she just was having a great time with her new friends. After several days of this, he and his friends proceeded to ask her how she planned to pay for the drugs they had given her. She was confused, never understanding that she was supposed to pay them back for their “generosity.” When she told them she didn’t have any money to pay them back, they were quick to offer an alternative means of payment. Having run away from her home with a virtual stranger and now already addicted to the high that crack gave her, she submitted to the fact that she was trapped. The “friends” took her upstairs to a large selection of clothing, and proceeded to dress her up and teach her how to pay back her debt and earn her highs from now on…which, by the way, were now much smaller than the doses the man had freely given to her before she realized she was entrapped.
My head was spinning. That happened here? In MY beloved city, where I grew up? The answer was yes. And many other things, very similar to this, happen on a regular basis in this city and in similar cities all over the state and country. In fact, I learned that one of the worst cities for minors entering into the sex trafficking world is Toledo. Children are being stolen and drugged and forced into a life they never even knew existed, to spend the rest of their short years doing things they should never have even heard of….And this is all happening right here in our own back yards. Every night. And it could be your child.
Unless people stop putting their hands over their ears and changing the channel and drowning out the sound of the cries of these women and children. If we start educating ourselves, learning simple signs to watch out for, memorizing a phone number that any of us can call to report a possible trafficking victim, praying for these perpetrators to not be able to accomplish their sick purposes any longer….unless we start doing those things, it won’t get better. It will get worse. Unless we start pooling our time, talents, and resources to help these people…they won’t get help. Period. Unless we become new abolitionists for this new type of slavery, nothing will change, will it?
That’s what Sunday night was about. Sunday night, my husband and I attended Night of Hope, which was an event hosted at Veritas Church by a group pf people who have launched a campaign called She Has a Name. The event was to create awareness of the problem of human trafficking both locally and abroad, and to highlight a few awesome organizations that are already fighting the fight against this modern-day slavery every day. Maybe you would be interested in finding out more about them and partnering with them in some way to help get women off the streets and back into a safe place where they can know their self-worth. Maybe you could become part of the fight to keep little children in their own warm, safe beds in their homes at night instead of being forced into a cold room with a dingy strange bed, with many men each night who are stranger still.
Here is a list of the organizations present at the Night of Hope, a quick blurb about what their main focus is, and a way to contact them for more information. At the very least, please visit the web sites for each of these organizations to educate yourself. Know that human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery: people being bought, traded, and sold into situations where they become enslaved for the gain of others. And know that there has GOT to be a solution to this disgusting problem. And know that YOU can choose to be part of the solution.
- Doma International http://domaconnection.org/ Doma focuses on meeting needs of vulnerable women and children. Here in Columbus, they partner with an amazing program called CATCH Court, presided over by Franklin County Judge Paul Herbert, which provides an intensive recovery program for women convicted of prostitution (which many times is or began as human trafficking)
- Gracehaven http://www.gracehavenhouse.org/ An organization that focuses on caring for minors who are involved in Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. (That means here in the US, folks) They are building a home where young people can exit that life and begin a new one through rehabilitation and support.
- As Our Own http://asourown.org/ In India, girls are particularly vulnerable to poverty and exploitation on a daily basis. This organization literally rescues young girls from brothels in India’s red light districts, and provides them with care until they are adults who can care for themselves. These girls are rescued from the most terrifying life imaginable, and placed into a family where they will be cared for — forever. Very unique situation and very inspiring.
if you’ve stuck with me this long, chances are you’ll check out some of these sites. And when you do, you’ll likely feel a break in your heart for these women and children. And you’ll likely want to do something about it. Thankfully, due to the hard work of these folks, you have plenty of places (even ones in addition to these!) to step into and help the least of these.
You can be an abolitionist. You can help end the newest form of sick slavery. You can make a difference in someone’s life. What if it was your child out there right now? What would you want others reading this to do to help?
Think of that. Then go do it.
Much love to you all…..
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:40