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.
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.
¹According to the Dallas Police Department
Photo credit: Pernell Goodyear