Karen: Most people who are involved with the abolition of human trafficking and slavery know the horrors of this crime from books, movies, videos, on-line accounts, etc. However, on one night in January, some of the volunteers with End Slavery TN met these atrocities face to face. We were invited to spend a few hours with a victim of human trafficking. We sat mesmerized for two hours listening to a beautiful, courageous young woman, whom I shall call “Carrie” and what have been the horrors of her life. She talked about her drug addicted mother and alcoholic father, and how at the early age of six, her mother told her to go into a bedroom with drug suppliers and “play doctor” with them. “Carrie” had never been taught the values that most of us are brought up with, the value of one’s body and soul. She was a very bright, pretty girl and by the time she was twelve or thirteen, after having lived with other relatives in various places, been raped by her older brother, and abused by others, she became involved with a pimp and a life of prostitution. Over the next five-six years she was forced to have sex with “more men than she could hope to remember.” She was moved from city to city, was branded on her body and face, had both feet broken when thrown out of a moving car, had her teeth broken, and was beaten repeatedly for “not making her quota” or disobeying her pimp! From the time she was sixteen, she tried to break away from this destructive life. After being arrested and treated like a criminal, however, she would call her pimp to bail her out. After all, who else would help her? Until one day, she encountered a woman from law enforcement who offered to help her escape. In an agreement for testifying against several pimps, she was placed several times in foster homes or half-way houses where she was mistreated, eventually retreating to her pimp, because “at least he would feed her.” “Carrie” has, in her early twenties, finally escaped, but at a cost. She has been placed here in TN where she knew no one, can never go back home, can never contact her family, and fears that she will be found and killed. She is courageously trying to begin a new life as a college student and working to help other victims. However, it is hard! She feels alienated from most people because of her past, feels she may never have a normal relationship with a man and has difficulty with trust. Despite everything, she is upbeat and hopeful. I personally came away heartbroken for “Carrie” and all the “Carries” of this world. Most of us will never know the realities of trafficking, can never fully understand the dynamics that land victims in this path, or fully comprehend the consequences. We can, however, learn from these victims, share their stories, come to their assistance, continue to educate others, and do everything in our power to end human trafficking. There are laws in place against this crime. WE have to work to ensure these laws are enforced! Thank you “Carrie” for sharing your story and for your courage to escape and help prosecute these criminals!
April: At the special meeting in January of 2010, many abolitionists with End Slavery TN gathered to hear a devastating recounting of a sex trafficking victim’s testimony. Her story emphasized a common trafficking scenario that occurs here in the United States: young girls that grow up in physically and sexually abusive homes who are forced, coerced, and tricked into prostitution at a very young age (around 13 or 14 years old). In this particular victim’s case, she was told the message very early on in life that no one is trustworthy, especially your family. Introduced to her first sexual encounter at age 6, she continued to be abused by the help of her own mother. At 14, she left home only to experience continual sexual abuse from other members of her family, and finally found herself working the streets of prostitution. She traveled across state borders as she battled between being trafficked and trying to flee. Hoping to seek refuge with her father, she was turned out and sold back into the life she longed to leave. Throughout her time in bondage, she experienced continual sexual and physical abuse from her pimps, including daily rapes and branding on her body. Her story was insightful about the lifestyle victims are forced to have. Many women would live in the same house or apartment, either going out at night to work the streets or waiting for a customer in their home. They suffered daily abuse and threats from their pimp, succumbed to living in fear. They are taken from everything they know and are cut off from society, feeling alone and without hope. This victim was finally able to flee and is doing her part in helping educate people about sex trafficking. It was a special opportunity for the NFSTN staff, one that continues to spur our efforts in the fight against slavery.
To Be Continued...
Members of the Nashville Volunteer group had the rare privilege of hearing, in her own words, the horrific story of a rescued victim of human trafficking, and to be inspired by her courage. Below are the accounts and reactions of a few of those present that day:
At first I was sure there was some mistake.
The young woman I’d just met was a vivacious, energetic college student. She was very much like every other college student I knew, though perhaps even more passionate about life.
Could she really have been held as a slave for all of her teenage years, trafficked across multiple states, her body sold to the highest bidders, night after night?
I had the privilege – and heartbreak - of hearing her story personally, and now I have the responsibility to share her story with the hope of preventing other tragedies like this one…
Angel* had the misfortune of being born to a mom who was a drug addict and a dad who was an alcoholic. She was raped at 13 by a family “friend” and later by her own brother. When she was forced to leave home because she couldn’t pay the rent demanded by her father, she was enslaved by countless pimps, some “meaner” than others. They at least kept her fed and clothed… as long as she followed their every command.
Pimps became her “daddy”… sex a commodity.
She worked the “track” every night (every city has one), not able to rest until she’d earned the minimum required by her master. Then she showered and was raped by her pimp (to make sure she wasn’t hiding any of “his” money). If she didn’t toe the line (in any real or imagined way), she was brutally abused. Among the physical assaults she described were:
- Her face and body were “branded” by one pimp leaving deep scars.
- Her jaw and front teeth were broken from repeated kicking by pointed boots
- She was beaten until she nearly bled to death, miscarrying her baby
- Unspeakable things were done to her with a hairbrush.
And, perhaps saddest of all, some of her girlfriends, trapped in this hell on earth with her, just disappeared without notice, never to be seen or heard from again. Angel knows what happened to them, though she doesn’t want to think about it. But for the grace of God, she too may have ended up in a shallow grave.
Now in her early twenties, Angel has a passion to help others. She’s in college, majoring in social work. And she’s pursuing speaking opportunities, as painful as it is to relive her past. In addition to speaking to our Not For Sale community activist group, she’s also spoken to groups of young people, warning them about how easy it is to become trapped in this vicious underground world where one human being “owns” another.
Angel is out to save other girls from the nightmare she’s endured.
* Angel is not her real name.
...To Be Continued
I’d like to start the New Year off expressing my deep, sincere gratefulness, and that of all of us on the End Slavery TN team, for the generous outpouring of donations we received last year, enabling us to concentrate on the task at hand. We are greatly encouraged. If you are a donor, you rightfully want to know what your money is being used for. This entry is intended to answer that question. If you are not a donor, this may be of interest nonetheless, as an overview of the work of End Slavery in Tennessee. PREVENTS slavery
Keeping people from being trafficked is even better than rescuing them. We’re designing/adapting materials and, in 2010, will be using them to teach the tactics of traffickers to
- Children and youth
- Inner city and immigrant service providers
- Others who work with young people
HELPS VICTIMS in transition
One girl rescued from sex slavery told us she knew some trafficking victims who later turned to prostitution because they didn’t have a toothbrush. In other words, no one was looking out for their physical needs as they transitioned back into normal life. After years of a trafficker controlling their every move, freedom can seem overwhelming. Better that they feel overwhelmed by how we care for them.
We’re working with the FBI and others to provide direct help to rescued victims. We also offer training, encouragement and financial support to those establishing shelters in Tennessee.
MOBILIZES and EQUIPS an army of volunteers
ESTN is all about grassroots activism and we have an exciting and ever growing network of activists, each of whom is playing their part in ending slavery.
- Allow tools for communication and information to flow.
- Provide general and specialized volunteer training for core volunteers and those involved in research, advocacy, community education and (future) working directly/ indirectly with victims.
- Provide resources for activists to carry out their work on college campuses, in faith communities, with professional groups, in the workplace and among artists.
TRAINS people likely to encounter trafficking
We train groups of professionals who are likely to make contact with victims or see the suspicious signs of trafficking, so they can correctly interpret what they see and know how to provide help. Examples of groups we’ve trained include apartment managers, medical personnel, teachers and community leaders. Your donations provide training materials.
EDUCATES the next generation
End Slavery Tennessee provides books and media on modern slavery to university libraries, so the next generation, tomorrow’s policy makers, is not blind to this travesty. Your money makes this happen.
SPREADS AWARENESS to the community at large
Once they discover the facts, some choose to directly engage in the movement to end slavery, others use their knowledge to affect public policy, buy differently and/or spread what they learn to their sphere of influence.
Your gifts provide supplies, handouts and travel costs for group speaking engagements (about 50 in 2009). This is in addition to meetings and other communication with individuals, student interviews, radio (78 stations) and TV interviews, newsletters, etc.
ENABLES RESTORATION and hope – a new life for rescued slaves
Donations provided "seed money" to start Freedom Parties and Presents with Purpose events, selling items made by rescued slaves, enabling them to earn a living and restore their lives. These products are purchases from around the globe, as well as right here in Tennessee.
UNCOVERS TRAFFICKING in our own backyards
Donations provide posters with hotline number and red flags for victim ID. Police say these posters are useful for victim identification. Volunteers – truck drivers, student and church groups, apartment managers – place these posters throughout the state.
In addition, specialized training by experts in the field enable us to catalogue and research local activity, providing useful information to overworked law enforcement officers, with the goal of leading to prosecution (expanding in 2010).
Local activists teach at the Nashville “John’s School” for men convicted of soliciting prostitutes. These activists teach how choices feed the monstrous machine of trafficking and the organized crime behind it.
Slavery doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Many factors, including poverty, contribute. Victims overseas often end up in wealthier receiving countries, like the U.S. (Conversely, we’ve heard of streets in Mexico lined with trafficked US children, for example.) Goods made by slaves overseas end up on our store shelves, immigrants flee to the US for a variety of reasons and find themselves deceived and trapped into slavery. And those who remain trapped overseas are generally in nations without the will and /or resources to help.
A minimum of 10% of all donations go to support international initiatives. Some donors designate additional funds to specific projects, like a border crossing in Nepal where survivors of trafficking work in conjunction with border police to identify traffickers and their victims in transit to India. (In just one year, donations helped our colleagues on the border rescue 1,747 girls from the sex trade!)
Like many of you, I can’t get Shaniya Davis out of my mind. I replay mental pictures of her sweet face, then fast forward to grim imaginations of what her last hours were like. And I weep.
Many people have expressed their own reactions to me, after hearing of this five year old being trafficked for sex- by her mother- and then murdered. I’ve heard rants and rage poured out in detailed descriptions of castration, being drawn and quartered and a special section in hell for the perpetrators. I have seen the pain and confusion on people’s faces that such a nightmare could be true and not just part of a macabre horror movie.
I understand. I burn with anger too, as I believe God does, for the injustice, the cruelty, the unbridled lust and gross misuse of power toward this vulnerable child who could not even hope to defend herself. But for the perpetrators, I feel pity. To be able to do what they did, they must have been , and still are, living in their own personal hell on earth. They have their own stories of misuse, lovelessness, addictions, and wrong choices that led them to this precipice. They are surely among the most miserable of people, having lost their very humanity. I hate the lies they believed. I hate the selfishness within each of us, including myself, that thankfully doesn’t reach this level of expression for most.
So as I weep and my heart aches mercilessly, I tell myself that this all must be channeled effectively. That something good must come from such unspeakable evil. We must bring truth and light into the dark society that teaches our citizens, from childhood, that value lies in sex appeal and that girls (and sometimes boys) are merely orifices for pleasure. We must fight all that devalues life and feeds the self-absorption that leads us to disregard the worth of another human being in the pursuit of our own desires.
And we must do all we can to cripple the travesty of human trafficking. It changes nothing to say “Oh, how horrible”, then turn away and continue with our life as usual. Or “I hope someone does something.” Or “The government needs to do more.” We must stop the kingdom building in anti-trafficking organizations where branding and media attention sometimes overshadow the mission of ending slavery, and competition for dollars keeps us from working cooperatively.
For a crime this rampant - the #2 and fastest growing in the world- it will take a movement. It will take each of us doing what we can, no matter how small. Because all our small contributions, pieced together, add up to something very large. Because nothing else has any hope of bringing change. And because maybe, just maybe, we can keep the same fate Shaniya faced, from happening to another child.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JCvdwmK4y8] Of the 27 million slaves in the world today about half are children. According to research by the University of Pennsylvania, at least 100,000 AMERICAN children PER YEAR are used for pornography or prostitution. And here’s a simple statistic that never fails to pierce my heart: Two children are trafficked into sexual exploitation every minute Traffickers typically use recruiters. That might be a 16 year old boy who acts like he has a romantic interest in a girl. Or a girl around the same age as the targeted victim , or a woman. Someone who seems safe and who acts like they are the ones who will provide what the child is longing for: love, protection, affirmation and attention. Recruiters invest time cultivating a child’s trust until the day comes when the child is in a position to be handed over to a trafficker. Then everyone’s true motivations are revealed. So who’s vulnerable?
- Runaways 1/3 are lured into sexual exploitation within 48 hours of leaving home! 90% eventually end up in commercial sex trade. We need to warn young people and parents about the tactics and dangers of trafficking!
- Children on the fringes. These may be kids from abusive homes or those neglected by harried immigrant parents working two jobs to make ends meet. Or it may just be the chubby child who doesn’t quite fit in.
Traffickers are less likely to recruit from neighborhoods with social power. It’s riskier and a wide spread search is more likely. But I talked to a woman a few months ago who lived in an expensive, exclusive neighborhood and was trafficked by boy in her high school. I’ve read of traffickers targeting girls in rural Minnesota simply because they are sweet and wholesome, and sweet wholesome virgins bring the highest prices. Traffickers are driven by profit, so sometimes they will take increased risks. In our most recent local case, 16 and 17 year old girls from a rural high school were the victims. Anyone, of any race, in any locale and with any socio-economic status can become a trafficker’s prey. Traffickers will recruit from malls, schools, bowling alleys, skating rinks, playgrounds, theatres– anywhere children can be found.
Chelsey lived a seemingly “normal” middle class life with her family in Georgia, but at age 10 her life forever changed when she was sold as a prostitute by her own father. Chelsey’s story is one of redemption. After her escape, she managed to graduate from high school and received a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia. Chelsey is now working on her master’s degree. The following is an excerpt of a journal passage Chelsey wrote during her unfathomable ordeal: “As I hang from the beam of a dim, musky, cold basement, I think of as many descriptive words as possible for the body parts I loathe the most. I have endured 14 hands, 70 fingers, all the while my hands are tied. They are numb from being laced above my head and are exhausted from supporting the rest of my body. I am naked, beaten, bleeding, and alone. Sunshine creeps in through the holes in the shades and amplifies my new wounds. I am coming down from a large dose of cocaine and I hope that at least one pair of hands returns to feed me some more. I close my eyes because the drips of sun, of life hurt, and I begin thinking of names of presidents and countries. Dusk approaches with footsteps. I count 14 feet, 70 toes, returning for another round. I inhale, I exhale, I brace myself. I close my eyes, ask silently for death, and hope they have enough blow to get me through the night. I am twelve years old.”
From The Columbus Dispatch July 28, 2009
- Human Trafficking, or modern day slavery, is the #2, and fastest growing, crime on the planet; a $32-billion-a-year business.
- Today there are 27 million people enslaved, more than at any other time in history.
- Slavery has been outlawed in every country but still occurs everywhere.
- The average price of a slave is 90 dollars, making modern slaves disposable people.
- The USA, along with Japan and Australia, are at the top of the list of wealthier receiving countries for foreign victims.
- Eighty percent of victims are female and fifty percent are children.
- Every minute two more children are forced into slavery; 1 million children are forced to work in the sex industry daily. At least 100,000 American children alone are used in pornography and prostitution each year.
- It is estimated that 200,000- 400,000 people are in bondage at any given time in the USA.
- Every year the slave population in the US grows upwards of 17,000.
- Suburbs, rural areas and small towns, and normal residential neighborhoods, are increasingly popular for this progressively computer based business.
What does that mean for us?
Buying differently: Select fair trade chocolate, freely made cars, clothing, jewelry and household goods. (See Free2Work.org)
Getting educated: Learn more about the issue including red flags for identifying the victims that may be hidden in plain sight. Start with notforsale.info and sign up for our newsletter at notforsaletn.org . We’ll send you a list of recommended books and links to video clips.
Taking Action: There’s a place for everyone in taking effective action to end slavery and aid its victims. Join the Abolitonist Movement today! Let us know you’re ready, by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
or My Night with Three Haitian Whores
This story, shared by Tony Compolo via my friend Mark Hollingsworth, reminds me not to lose heart because I can't do more. To remember that there is great beauty and power in each of us giving what we can.
One time when I was in Haiti, I checked into a modern hotel in the afternoon before I was to leave. There’s only one Holiday Inn in that wreck of a country, and I stay overnight there to shower, shave, and get cleaned up so I’m fit for the plane ride home in the morning.
After I’d gone down the block to get some dinner as I returned to the hotel entrance, 3 little girls intercepted me. I call them girls, because they couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13. They had painted some lipstick on and were trying to look sexy. But it’s hard to look sexy when you’re 13 and hungry.
The one in the middle boldly said “Mister, for $10 dollars I’ll do anything you want me to all night long.”
And I cringed.
I looked at the one next to her and I said, “How about you…can I have you for $10?”
She said “Oui.”
I asked the third, “What about you?”
The third girl said in her broken English , “Yes, you can have me for $10, too.”
I said “I’ve got $30…I want all three of you all night long. I’m in room 210, and I want you up there in a half hour.”
Rushing up to the room, I called the concierge desk and asked “I notice that you have videos for rent for the VCR’s in the room, right? Send up every Disney video that you have that is translated into Creole.” Then I called room service: “I want 4 huge dishes of chocolate ice cream. Please cover them with nuts, strawberry sauce, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and cherries on top of each one. Make them big and beautiful. And I would like them up here in exactly a half hour.”
Right on time the little ladies knocked timidly on my door, and I ushered them in, where they sat down frightened on the edge of the bed. Shortly thereafter was another knock on the door and in came the videos and the ice cream…and these girls sat there wide-eyed, but still having no idea what was happening. So I put on Finding Nemo, and we ate the ice cream, and we started to laugh and joke and giggle, prompted by these strange images on the screen. When one was video was done, we’d start another. I ordered up a sandwich plates and lemonades at 11 o’clock. And we ate and watched cartoons and laughed some more.
By 2 AM, each of them had fallen asleep on the bed. As I sat there on the chair looking across at those 3 lovely, innocent whores, I thought “Greater works shall you do because I go unto my Father.”
I didn’t solve their problem. The next day they would be out on the streets again selling their little bodies. There would always be filthy johns around waiting to buy them. I didn’t know enough Creole to tell them about Jesus, or to lead them to Him. Everything was the same…nothing had changed.
Except this: for one night…just for one night, they were allowed to be little girls again.
And if you say “Big deal…what did it matter?” you don’t understand what Jesus was talking about when He essentially said “Do you think walking on water is something? Do you think feeding 5,000 was something? It’s nothing compared to the expression of love in simple, and almost unnoticeable ways that you can do in my name.”
Let's go and do likewise.
Scott McCracken, a friend , left this insightful comment on Facebook, which I'd like to share with those who read this blog also: " Thanks for sharing that story, My opinion is there is very little by Anthony Campolo that is not worth sharing. Almost everything he says is a jewel from the Lord. The other benefit to what he did is SAVE THEM from what could have happened to them on that one night. And who knows, he may very well have even saved their lives, and planted a seed that will bear more obvious fruit later. The other thing he did was show us how "saving our own reputations" is so unimportant when we are truly doing the right thing."
Slavery is what it has always been: involuntary servitude. Bondage. Today’s traffickers in people force their victims into labor, service or the commercial sex trade. They maintain that control through violence: Brutal beatings, repeated rapes, threats of severe harm to the slave and often to their families, as well as through lies, deception and psychological manipulation. But there are three notable differences between modern day slavery and that of, say, the slave trade of the Civil War Era in the US.
- Numbers: There are 27 million slaves in the world today. That’s more than at the peak of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. More than at any other time in history.
- Laws: Abolitionists, like William Wilberforce in England, spent their lives working to change the laws that allowed slavery. Today slavery is illegal virtually everywhere. It may not be enforced because of corruption, or may not be effectively enforced, and the laws certainly need improvement, but there are laws in place. And that gives us hope of truly being able to end slavery in our lifetime.
- Cost: The biggest difference is cost. A plantation owner in the old south made a big investment when he bought a slave. A young male agricultural worker cost the equivalent of $40,000 today. That slave may have been treated like an animal, but at least it was like a prize bull. The slave owner didn’t want to lose his investment.
The average cost of a slave today is about $90. Today’s slaves are truly disposable people. So slave owners have little motivation to care for their victims, little motivation to protect them from AIDS or accidents or harm from “clients” or themselves, or to provide health care or good nutrition. If one slave gets used up, another one can be easily procured to take their place.
So this Fourth of July, while you celebrate your freedom, rejoice in all that you are free to do. And remember those who do not share your freedoms.