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Vulnerable Among Us

on January 31 | in Random | by | with 30 Comments

Much of this blog is dedicated to the beauty and innocence of my children’s lives . . . the way Katie tells me “not to look” when she’s about to sneak a pancake or how Micah opens his mouth like a seagull when I walk in the room. I don’t want to mar that by talking about ugly topics and I have agonized over how to present this information, what to ask of you, and, more importantly, what to require of myself.

I’m talking about human trafficking.

It’s Superbowl week here in Dallas/Fort Worth. ESPN radio is setting up its broadcast in my favorite town square and Daniel is about to jump in the car and try to beat 300,000 or so extra drivers to downtown. The excitement is palpable. But if you know what to listen for there is also a disturbing silence surrounding this event . . . the silence of children who have been brought in to be bought and sold for pleasure and profit.

Modern Day Slavery

I grew up thinking that slavery ended in 1865. I was so, so very wrong. In the United States there are more slaves today than in Colonial times. And while some of these individuals are brought over from foreign countries, the majority are U.S. citizens kidnapped and held hostage against their will.

Most of them are children.

I wish I could say that as adults many of these children find a way to heal and recover from what what was done to them in their most vulnerable years, but statistically speaking these children lead short, tragic lives that never reach adulthood. The average life expectancy for a child forced into sexual slavery is 7 years¹. “Death comes through homicide, suicide, botched abortions, sexually transmitted and other diseases or through trauma to their underdeveloped bodies,” Alisa Jorheim of Traffick 911 recently told me.

Is This Really Happening?

We most often think of big, ugly issues being in far off corners of the world – in countries we can’t really find on maps. Major issues like trafficking, sexual slavery, and brothels filled with unwilling captives…that happens over there, right? We don’t have those issues here….

The big, ugly issues are not far away…they pass mostly unnoticed in our cities and neighborhoods throughout the United States.

In the U.S., 1 out of every 3 children are lured, tricked, and forced into prostitution with 48 hours of running away. National Center For Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 100,000 American children are victims of sex trafficking and exploitation every year.

Closer Than You Think

I was pregnant with Micah when I first became aware of what’s happening in my city (and yours). As I muddled my way through potty training Katie, I couldn’t help but think this: While she is learning to control her body others her age are having their sacred little forms violated in ways they don’t even have the capacity to comprehend yet.

I am not a violent person, but that thought is enough to unleash things in me I never imagined possible. If you’re a mom you know what I mean. Even if these are not our children in the strictest sense, THEY ARE CHILDREN that need to be found, rescued and restored.

What Will WE Do?

Although the method and means of exploitation are slightly different in this ABC report it is reveals a lot about how criminals get away with stuff here in the United States. I hope you have a few minutes to watch . . . it is sooooo inspiring.

I am not flattering you when I say that I believe you would have intervened. Through emails, real-life meetings and comments I have learned a few things: You are passionate, protective, courageous women. You are the advocate these children need.

Be An Abolitionist

When I was in the fifth grade we read about Harriet Tubman and all the heroic people that risked their lives in the underground railroad. I remember regretting that I’d missed my opportunity to be a hero.

I don’t want to be a hero anymore. I just want a solution to looking at my children and thinking that there are innocents out there being victimized on our watch. They may be powerless, but we are not. Mothers just like us are raising awareness via blogs, Facebook posts, whatever.

Rescue organizations are popping up all around the country. There are several right here where I live, because Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is becoming a major hub for human trafficking. Alisa Jordheim, whom I mentioned earlier, works to develop safe housing options for those rescued from slavery. She helped me put some facts together in preparation for this post. At the end of our exchange I laid it on the line.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom on a budget, ” I told her. “I am heartbroken for these kids but there doesn’t seem to be much I can do. It’s not like I can hit the streets and search for these children block by block. How can I make a difference?”

This is what she told me. “First and foremost, bring awareness about this horrific issue.  Most of us in America believe this is just an international issue – it’s not!  The number one destination for Americans seeking sex with children is the United States. Speak with friends, neighbors or anyone who will listen, if we all share within our own spheres of influence soon all will know of this crime against our own children.”

So that’s what I’m doing. I consider you all friends. It wasn’t fun having this conversation, but I’m really glad you listened and I hope you’ll speak up in your circles. That’s all I’m asking. I don’t have 10 step plan or a charity I’m going to launch next month. If  this issue really moves you and you want to do more, here are a some ideas. Or for more information and a list of reputable anti-trafficking organizations throughout the U.S. visit Traffick 911′s resource page.

To be silent is to be complicit.²

**If you feel the urge to grab your little ones and hug them with all your strength I won’t blame you, cause that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Resources & Information

This is the trailer for “Playground,” an independent film about trafficking. It’s pretty gritty, so be prepared.

It’s Not My Fault

Traffick 911

¹According to the Dallas Police Department

Photo credit: Pernell Goodyear

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30 Responses to Vulnerable Among Us

  1. Mary says:

    Thank you for speaking on this, it is such a hard topic, but yet so relevent. Another good website for information is stopthecandyshop.com. This is also a huge issue in my hometown of Columbus, OH and it breaks my heart to know that it happens all around me and yet it is so easy to conceal; people can shove it under the rug and pretend it isn’t happening, but this is the sad truth and we need to be educated. Again, thank you so much!

    • Heather says:

      “it happens all around me and yet it is so easy to conceal” For me this is the most frustrating part. It’s easy to think that because there are no obvious signs around me that it’s not happening here, but the more I learn the more certain I am that it IS happening. With two young ones I’m not out and about much, but hopefully by spreading the word we can all do our part to be eyes and ears, searching for these “invisible” children.

  2. [...] writes a good post on raising awareness of human trafficking. I grew up thinking that slavery ended in 1865. I was so, [...]

  3. Mae says:

    Thank you for posting this Heather. With the International Airport here, the Super Bowl has been projected to make make millions for the sex trade industry. We went to Thailand to help the women of the Tamar Center recover from their lives as sex slaves, and also an orphanage there where little boys and girls as young as TWO were traded and used. I thought that this was so out of my reach until I worked at a shelter a year later in Texas where a two year old little girl had been cut by her mother in order to make it easier for her abusers. I think about her almost everyday.
    Thank you for having the courage to talk about this on your blog.

  4. Amazing post. I will be ‘sharing’ it with my friends.

  5. Thanks, Melissa. I have written, trashed and rewritten this post more times than I’d like to admit. It’s impossible to feel like anything is good enough when so much is on the line but I remind myself that our efforts are cumulative and that helps. I actually found INMF after you posted it . . . further proof that little things make a big difference.

  6. I know what you mean. It’s part of why while sex trafficking is a big issue to me, I haven’t written about it specifically for DIB. It feels almost like nothing would be good enough, or that since I’m not out in the trenches just raising awareness isn’t enough. I finally had to realize that I’m not in a place yet to be in the trenches but that not being silent is something too. Glad something I posted added to your post- it makes me feel good LOL

  7. Alexis D says:

    When my daughter was about 8 months old my husband and I watched the movie “Taken” and that movie gave me the goosebumps like none other! After watching it I asked my hubby if these types of things happen in real life and he said yes and more so than we think and he’d go to prison if someone did something like that to our precious daughter. Since then it has saddened me to read about it every now and then in the news. Police officers in Britain captured a “transaction” going on in broad daylight and when I saw the picture on the news I couldnt even imagine the life that female must have and if she has family worried about her and thinking the worst. What I didnt know until your post is that it happens to children as young as two – what pain and grief that brings to my heart! Not only are girls victims but boys as well! May God have mercy on their precious little souls! I’ll definitely be holding my daughter a little longer after her nap!

  8. Kristine Dessinger via Facebook says:

    I think you did a wonderful job!

  9. Kristine says:

    Thank you for speaking out about this topic. I believe when this horrible crime is exposed through raising awareness to fellow Americans, it will be much more difficult for the pimps to continue undetected. The child trafficking hotline number is 1-888-373-7888. Please add this number to your phone and call this number if you spot a questionable situation or a child in danger. Some children in this situation have already been spotted in DFW within the last week.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for posting this, Heather. I’ve not known how to make others aware of this, so I am glad to have this post to pass along. I recently was told that DFW is the #3 place in America for this. It breaks my heart…

  11. Shannon says:

    For years before Coco was born I did canine search and rescue & recovery. It’s horrible the things that happen to our children and the insane number of teenage girls that disappear without anyone really following up is shocking.

  12. I don’t even know what to say. There’s so much abuse in our society – in families, to children… and this that you’ve shared, even worse – sexual abuse right here, in our own United States; it’s awful. What is wrong with people? This piece made me cry, thank you for sharing.

  13. Heidi says:

    There is an amazing organization called love146.org, and they are an organization devoted to putting an end to Child sex slavery, both here in the states and abroad. Actually on Feb 11th, there is going to be a steampunk show called the Carnival of Creatures, and it is going to be held at the Sons of Hermann Hall, and the charity that we are donating to is love146. the website is http://www.love146.org

    • Heather says:

      Heidi – It’s very encouraging to hear that people are organizing to raise support for anti-trafficking organizations. I just recently became acquainted with Love146 (the “It’s Not My Fault” link under resources is a Love146 campaign). They are good people and they know how to get the word out. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Heidi says:

        oh certainly, I am actually dancing in a show that Love146 is our Charity, the show is called Carneval of Creatures, and the first show will be this Friday at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas!

  14. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lynette ®, ashlea, sunnymama831, kelly, Heather Dessinger and others. Heather Dessinger said: new post: Vulnerable Among Us http://www.mommypotamus.com/vulnerable-among-us/ [...]

  15. Ashlea says:

    stumbled upon your post via twitter. this is something i too am very passionate about. thank you for sharing your heart, and continuing to speak out for the many children that have been lost for too long. awareness is such an important step, and you have done a great job of sharing on such a difficult, charged, and overwhelming topic. while this is such a HUGE problem, every single connection we make with others who are willing to fight it in any way possible is such an encouragement. thank you for encouraging this mama’s heart. every voice counts!

    • Heather says:

      Ashlea – I’m at home with my two kiddos most days and it can be very frustrating not to be able to “get out there” and “do something.” But you’re right, every voice counts. Thank you for reminding me.

  16. Chantel says:

    Thank you for writing about this issue. I had no idea this was going on right here in DFW. I am horrified, truly, and the fight has gained one more Mama Lion ready to take on the evil out there doing this to our babies. I will hug my six children a little closer tonight and tomorrow I will come out swinging. If Facebook and Twitter can spread stupid humor like wildfire- think of what they can do for something like this. My heart is completely broken tonight.

    -Another Mama in Dallas

  17. Amy W. says:

    This is heart breaking! I like you, want to do something. But, I wonder what. I would love to re-post your blog to my site. Your research is appreciated.

  18. Vulnerable Among Us « Sleeping Beauty Slavery says:

    [...] Posted JAN 31 2011 by HEATHER in RANDOM with 19 COMMENTS [...]

  19. Leah says:

    Heather, this is another one of those “let’s sit at my kitchen table with a cup of tea and cry together” conversations. Sex trafficking is one of those issues like homelessness and huger that we so quickly assume happen in other part of the world, not in my town, community, church. This is a topic close to my heart for many reasons but most immediately due to the fact that working with birthing mothers, I see first hand the long term effects of sexual trauma and resulting PTSD. Even for women who have “recovered” and “moved past it”, the fear, the memories, the trauma never really goes away and often rears its ugly head at the most surprising moments. Thank you for speaking up “for the least of these”.

  20. Alison says:

    Thank you for spreading the word. I had no idea this kind of thing happened (in my “backyard” no less) until about a year ago. Personally I’ll be praying hard for the Super Bowl weekend and for the countless children and adolescents who are forced into this life.

  21. Genevieve says:

    Brutal. I don’t know how a soul can endure these experiences. Amazing how any life to tell. Thanks for sharing and raising awareness. I told my hubby that I just want him to make a donation to Love 146 for Valentine’s Day per Sorta Crunchy’s suggestion.http://www.sortacrunchy.net/sortacrunchy/2011/01/givelove-valentines-day-cards.html

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