In America, we are motivated and shaped by fear. In 2012, the world was supposed to end three different times. We worry and stockpile, produce end-of-the-world prepper reality TV shows, and give all of our attention to the media pumping out reports on the fiscal cliff and small arms bans. When we read and watch these things, we get hit by a wave of anxiety. But when it comes to the face of modern slavery, there are many people who would rather believe it doesn’t exists. In fact, there has been heated debate about whether or not it actually exists. After all, we have enough things to worry about, right?
On November 16, 2011, Nicholas D. Kristof published and article titled The Face of Modern Slavery in The New York Time Opinion Pages. In this article, Kristof hints towards the disbelieving attitude of the American public. Ignoring this, he tells the story of Strey Pov who was sold by her family at six years-old to a Cambodian brothel. Knowing nothing about sex, she was soon bought and raped by Western men.
Western men? That’s us. That’s the Americans--the people that don’t believe that human trafficking exists. Yet, we are the demand in supply and demand. A retired U.S. Schoolteacher openly spoke out about his experience with sex tourism. “On this trip I’ve had sex with a 14 year old girl in Mexico and a 15 year old in Columbia. I am helping them financially. If they don’t have sex with me, they may not have enough food. If someone has a problem with me doing this, let UNICEF feed them.”
But it isn’t just retired old man taking these trips. Recently, the FBI released reports of their investigation on New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. In the reports, they cover details of several trips he made in August 2012 to the Dominican Republic with his friend, campaign contributor, and Miami eye doctor, Salomon Melgen. On these trips, the men had sex with Dominican prostitutes as young as sixteen--girls bought and sold into the sex industry. Not only did Menendez violate the senate’s code of ethics, but he may have broken federal campaign finance laws. It is important to note that the age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18, but even so The PROTECT Act, a law passed in 2003, made it a federal crime for Americans to engage in sex for money with anyone under the age of 18, even in countries where the age of consent is lower. The Senator denies these accusations, saying, “Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false.”
|New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez under investigation for having sex with minors in Dominican Republic.|
American men justify their “vacations” under the lie that the young women and girls in these brothels are there voluntarily, but it isn’t so. Many survivors that have managed to escape from the brothels speak of torture if they do not simply give in and hand their bodies and virginity over. Even if they could escape, where would they turn? Where could they ever find acceptance and a normal life? Many leaders in these organized crime rings have the girls’ information; know if they have children, and who they love most in the world. If they don’t comply, they threaten to kill those the women cherish most in the world.
But human trafficking does not only exist outside the United States. Jessica Ford, an escaped victim, testified against five men who kidnapped her and forced her into the industry. These men controlled one of the biggest sex traffic rings in Dallas, Texas. Evidence revealed that the men kidnapped girls as young as 16 and advertised them on the internet for sex. If the women did not comply, or were caught trying to escape, they were beaten.
|Adds for an "escort' uses code words such as 'young', 'fresh', and 'innocent' to advertise minors for sex.|
Other pimps sell their girls on websites like backpages.com, where girls are as young as eleven or twelve. Of course, the girls are warned to lie about their age, but many have testified that the men they are purchased by never ask questions anyway.
In Toledo, Ohio, Kimberly(not her real name) was only a teenager when she was kidnapped off the streets and forced into prostitution. She tells a hair-raising story of how a man in a car pulled up to her and her friends. “He did his research.” She says, “Finds girls that he likes and finds out your name and all sorts of stuff.” Mistaking the man for the father of a friend, she got into the car with the man. After 11 days of being forced to have sex with strange men, Kimberly was rescued when a trucker noticed her at a truck stop. Hear her tell her story in this video.
I recently met a woman I will call Betty who dances at a strip club here in Indiana. Dancing is not the life she wanted. Growing up without parents or a real, true home, Betty got tangled up with a man whom she married at 17. Betty’s husband fell into drugs and sent her out to work as a dancer in order to support his drug habit. But even local strip clubs are not all that they seem. Many girls learn they can perform sexual favors, or allow sexual favors to be preformed on them, for extra money. In desperate need to bring in a certain sum, many dancers give in. This kind of behavior leads the girls into alcohol and drug abuse just to get through what they need to do. Because of this, Betty was soon addicted to drugs and now had to support two addictions. To meet the needs, her husband began pimping her out as a prostitute. Betty had nowhere else to go. By now, she had a baby. In an effort to keep her baby fed and clothed, in a home and relatively safe from harm, Betty found herself in bondage.
In an article titled Human Trafficking : Modern-Day Slavery in America, the author Phillip Martin cites:
About 18,000 people are trafficked to the U.S. each year, according to the State Department. What do they have in common? Most are indebted to smugglers and traffickers. According to the Polaris Project, a national anti-human trafficking group, victims have also been pressed to work in factories, farms, strip clubs, begging and peddling rings and as domestic workers--for little or no money.
This is not another country’s problem. This is a global problem. The most frightening part about this issue is that the United States, our land of freedom, fuels and feeds it. The biggest culprit, knowingly or not: The NFL. Skeptical? The 2010 Super Bowl estimated 10,000 sex workers brought in to Miami, while the 2011 event reaped around 133 prostitution-related arrests.
On February 3, 1013, Super Bowl XLVII will be hosted at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. At 6:30 EST time, most households will tune in to see the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers face off. What we will not see is the trafficking of young girls and boys, men and women, being sold off for the sexual pleasure of others. Already, the seedy underbelly and even the classy streets of the bayou are being prepped for the buying and receiving of sexual pleasure.
|On the streets of New Orleans, men prepare for the onslaught of customers the Super Bowl will bring in.|
I’m not sure why so many American men eagerly exploit the abuse of women and children. My bet is on the rise of the porn industry and our sex-saturated culture. A man walks into a strip club and figures the girl dancing in front of him is there by choice, and sometimes they are. But he never questions if she might be owned by a pimp or abusive boyfriend, sending her to dance and perform sexual favors to rake in as much cash as she can. Instead, he enjoys instant gratification with little guilt. A man might feel at ease picking up a hooker on the street corner because, after all, she’s standing there offering and he has the money. But there are never any guarantees that the women are not girls, taken from outside their homes, faced with a beating if they do not comply and walk the streets.
So what can you do about it?
Get educated. Know what human trafficking is: the illegal trade of human beings mainly for the purpose of commercial sex exploitation or forced labor.
~Read up on articles written by advocates trying to shed a light on the issue.
~Don’t judge a woman that has found a way out. Help her find a new life.
~If you suspect trafficking in your area, tip off police.
~Spread the word.
~Teach your children the signs and dangers of predators.
~Scream for those who cannot.
~Most importantly, vow not to purchase a woman/girl. Ever. Not off the street. Not in a strip club. Be a person of integrity.
The White Umbrella Campaign
The A21 Campaign
Not For Sale Campaign
End It Movement
Blue Heart Campaign
Or, please share this video on you social media pages.