Human Trafficking Awareness

A Study of Contrasts-Dr. Li Wenliang and Ghislaine Maxwell

I am one of those people who tries to understand how people choose to live their lives. Is it in large part because some are basically good and try to help their fellow human beings while other people just care about themselves and are willing to hurt anyone in order to get what they want? In my novel True Mercy, Bruce Hitchens and his son Adam want to do the right thing and help people while the human trafficking smugglers, Igor, Sergei, and Andre, only care about themselves and stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even if it means destroying lives.

An example of a study of contrasts as to how people make these decisions is to examine the lives of Dr. Li Wenliang and Ghislaine Maxwell.

Dr. Li was a 34-year-old dedicated ophthalmologist at the Wuhan Central Hospital. In December of 2019, Dr. Li warned other doctors about the possible spread of an illness with SARS-like symptoms appearing on seven patients from the Huanan Seafood market in Wuhan. They had recently been quarantined at his hospital. His post on WeChat went viral and the alarmed Chinese government quickly sent in the police to warn him that spreading rumors online was forbidden. The following week Dr. Li had a patient suffering from glaucoma but who also had the SARS-like illness, which we now know is the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, the doctor also contracted the virus and passed away on February 7, 2020. He was married and his widow had their second child in June.

Ghislaine Maxwell is an entirely different story. She is a 58-year-old socialite from England who dedicated her life to supplying and grooming underage girls to her friend, financier Jeffrey Epstein, for sex-trafficking purposes. Her father, the late publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, had robbed his employee’s pension funds to keep his empire afloat. Ghislaine was raised in a 53-room mansion and attended Oxford University. In 1991, she moved to the United States. Craving the lifestyle she was accustomed to but lost when her father’s empire went under, she decided to make a living by finding three girls a day so pedophile Jeffrey Epstein could sexually abuse them. She has recently been arrested and is now in prison awaiting trial.

Who knows why people make the decisions they do? Although it is an eternal question, one thing is certain: it is always a privilege to have good, sincere people in our lives. As for the opposite, the best we can do if they come near is to run in the opposite direction.

References

  1. Bociurkiw, Michael (11 February 2020). “China’s hero doctor was punished for telling truth about coronavirus” (https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/08/opinions/coronavirus-bociurkiw/index.html) Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  2. Hegarty, Stephanie (6 February 2020) “The Chinese doctor who tried to warn others about coronavirus” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51364382) Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  3. Vincent, Isabel (18 July 2020). “Ghislaine Maxwell was ‘a sexual predator,’ alleged victim says in new testimony” (https://nypost.com/2020/07/18/ghislaine-maxwell-was-a-sexual-predator-alleged-victim-says) Retrieved 20 July 2020.
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Human Trafficking on the Rise: Current Statistics

About seven years ago, I saw the movie Taken. I remember being shocked and traumatized that such evil as kidnapping innocent young girls into human trafficking even existed. It stayed with me and when I decided to write my first novel for publication, I did research on human trafficking. I learned that it is the third largest criminal activity in the world, behind drug trafficking and counterfeiting, Taken took place in France and a European mafia was involved, so I decided to keep the European mafia in my novel but have the victim be from Moldova.  At the time, it was the European country with the most victims of human trafficking.*

When True Mercy was published in December 2016, most people were still learning about sex trafficking. Since then, this crime has made headlines all over the world. Keith Raniere, founder of the self-help organization NXIVM, was convicted of sex trafficking, ISIS terrorists are forcing under aged girls into marriages in the Middle East, and schemes have come to light of older men manipulating teenage girls into sex trafficking.

By now, in August 2019, the number of cases has exploded. The latest to make headlines is the recently-deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein, who has been charged with sex trafficking and sexually assaulting under aged girls.

Recently, I read a report published last month in USA Today. The following are some shocking statistics:

  1. The UN’s International Labor Organization reported that over 70% of sex trafficking occurs in Asia and the Pacific, 14% in Europe and Central Asia, and 4% in the Americas.
  2. It is estimated there are 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking in the world, 1 million of them children.
  3. In the United States, 1 out of 7 runaways are believed to be victims of child sex trafficking.
  4. Girls in foster homes are particularly vulnerable to traffickers, who manipulate them by making promises to love and take care of them.
  5. Worldwide forced sexual labor is a $99 billion dollar business. 
  6. There are approximately 9,000 massage parlors that engage in sex trafficking in the US.

Why is there so much human trafficking in the world? One factor involves armed conflicts. In many of these countries, displaced civilians suffer loss of their livelihood. They are forced to desperately search for other means of survival and often fall prey to manipulative traffickers who promise them work overseas but end up enslaving them or forcing the women into marriage.  This occurs more frequently in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Another factor is high unemployment. For example, when the Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991, Moldova became an independent nation but then suffered economic collapse. This left many people poor and the young people seeking to leave the country. Unfortunately, many fell prey to human traffickers.

Since there is more awareness of human trafficking, organizations have formed to combat it. Examples include Polaris, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office). But more work needs to be done and everyone can help.

If you need help or see something suspicious, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, text “BeFree (233733), or chat humantraffickinghotline.org.

* A report by the US State Department cites Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan are the worst countries now.

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring more awareness to the human trafficking crisis. True Mercy may be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo.

References

  1. Kelly, Cara (29 July 2019) “13 sex trafficking statistics that explain the enormity of the global sex trade.” USA Today. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  2. “Human trafficking cases hit a 13-year record high, new UN report shows.” UN News. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
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Nadia Murad: A Former ISIS Sex Slave Speaks Out

Last week I watched the moving PBS documentary On Her Shoulders. It is essential that anyone concerned about human rights watches it in order to be aware of the brutality committed by ISIS terrorists. Their massacres and dismantling of Yadizi communities in the Middle East must be stopped.

On Her Shoulders relates the story of Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was living peacefully with her family in the Iraqi town of Kojo. The Yazidis are a people that live in northern Iraq, northern Syria, southeastern Turkey, the Caucasus area and sections of Iran. They incorporate many different religions in their beliefs, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  Observing their own distinctive religion has created tension with their Muslim neighbors.

Nadia’s life and the lives of her fellow villagers were shattered on the fateful day of August 3, 2014. Islamic State terrorists attacked her village and massacred 700 people who were simply going about their daily lives. At 19 years old, Nadia, many members of her family, and thousands of other women were taken as sex slaves, continually beaten and raped.

Nadia escaped but has since devoted her life to traveling around the world and speaking about that day, pleading with world leaders to stop the ISIS genocide of the Yazidi people and free the 3,200 women still in captivity, including her own sisters. The documentary showed her telling her story again and again in Germany, Canada, and Greece. Nadia testified before the United Nations Security Council in 2015 and the following year became the first survivor of human trafficking to become the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. In 2018 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite Nadia Murad’s efforts to inform the world of ISIS’s killings and holding women as sex slaves, it is still taking place. Thousands of Yazidis live in refugee camps in various countries as ISIS terrorists continue committing atrocities in countries like Iraq and Syria.

On Her Shoulders can be viewed online at http://www.onhershouldersfilm.com/. Anyone concerned about genocide and sex trafficking needs to watch this documentary.

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Updates on Human Trafficking Crisis

I recently read about the grim report by the State Department concerning human trafficking (https://www.foxnews.com/us/human-trafficking-in-america-among-worst-in-world-report). It is not only is on the rise in the United States, but this country is ranked as one of the worst countries for human trafficking. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented the Trafficking in Persons Report, which documents human trafficking numbers from the previous year. He noted that despite the substantial increase in funding and services for trafficking survivors, a growing number of children are being trafficked as sex slaves. The following are some shocking statistics:

  • 85% are born in the United States
  • 50% to 60% are from foster care
  • Others are homeless young people, undocumented immigrant youth, and young people suffering from substance abuse
  • Over 300,000 of the country’s youth are at risk.  (According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
  • The average victim began getting raped at three years old

I believe the government is redoubling its efforts in fighting this growing problem, but the sad truth is sex trafficking is thriving because of the great demand. How can it be stopped?

Keith Raniere: Finally, Justice for the Sex Cult Founder

I know this qualifies as good news, but after reading the trial of NXIUM founder Keith Raniere,  I feel sickened he was allowed to operate his sex cult business for even one day. Raniere is an example of a monstrously evil individual. He faces life in prison. For those interested in reading about his horrific cult, please go to https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48401061. In the article, you will find that Raniere had notable people working and financing him. I found the crimes too gruesome to read.

More Good News: Former MLB Kevin Malone Works to End Human Trafficking

Kevin Malone was a general manager in professional baseball for 17 years. Now he works hard to rescue children from sex trafficking. Five years ago he co-founded the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. Based on research Malone estimates that there are over 100,000 children being trafficked for sex in the United States.  The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking’s website (https://usiaht.org/about-us/) states their goals as follows:

  • Creating financially stable and replicable Safe Homes for survivor restoration across the country
  • Partnering with local law enforcement, governments, businesses, schools and community-based organizations to create TraffickingFree Zones
  • Educating federal, state and local government officials about the problem and what more they can do to stop it
  • Eliminating the “demand” by promoting legislative and law enforcement focus on the sex buyers instead of those being sold

The human trafficking crisis has affected all levels of our society and it can no longer be ignored. People must come together to end it.

If you are a trafficking victim or suspect someone you know is a victim, contact The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or CYBERTIPLINE.ORG.

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring awareness to two issues: families with a loved one with autism and the human trafficking crisis.

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Human Trafficking Crisis in India

I spent an evening at my local Dining for Women, a global organization of women dedicated to empowering women in the developing world.  I socialized with some delightful, like-minded women and then we watched a video about the human trafficking crisis in India and the inspiring work Her Future Coalition is doing for rescued women and girls.

Prostitution is legal in India but human trafficking is not. Government statistics show that every eight minutes, a child goes missing in India.  A human trafficking report in 2016 by the U.S. State Department wrote that India serves as a source, destination, and transit country for men, women and children victimized by slave labor and sex trafficking. Another study completed in 2018 wrote that the number of victims brought to India from Nepal rose by a staggering 500% between 2013 and 2017.

Why is human trafficking so prevalent in this region? There are a number of factors:

  • Men come to the region to work in the commercial cities, so girls and women are kidnapped from poor families to satisfy the demand for commercial sex.
  • The poorer the family, the greater the chance one of their daughters will be sold, particularly in the Northeastern region of India. Sadly, some families are so desperate they are even willing to sell their own daughters.
  • Believing their children will receive education and jobs, parents are tricked into sending their children to these agents.
  • Girls and women are trafficked for forced marriages because there is a shortage of available females due to female infanticide.
  • An estimated 11.7 million people work for debt labor. When families are short on cash, they sell their sons and daughters to obtain money. Often these children don’t get paid for years.

Unfortunately, many times after girls are rescued, they are rejected by their families and treated as outcasts once they find out they were forced into prostitution.

The situation is bleak but there are people willing to donate time and money to help them.  Organizations in India like Her Future Coalition work hard to rescue these women and girls, providing them shelter and job training so they have the tools to lead lives of independence and freedom. Her Future Coalition works with local agencies to construct shelters for rescued girls, where they are can stay for a long term and be safe and supported.  The shelters provide food, clothing, medical attention, and counseling. Since the majority of those rescued have very little education, Her Future Coalition sponsors educational programs leading to job placement.  The film showed examples of the most popular fields: nursing, jewelry-making, bee-keeping, and accounting. To date, over 700 survivors have benefitted from their educational programs. Human trafficking is a horrendous crime, but there are dedicated individuals working to combat it. The more the better.

Readers interested in finding out more information or donating to the Her Future can go to https://www.herfuturecoalition.org.

Women who want to find out about their local Dining for Women can go to https://diningforwomen.org.

References

Giri, Avinash, (2019, January 3). What’s wrong with India’s Efforts to Check Human Trafficking? [Blog post], Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2019/whats-wrong -with-indias-efforts-to-check-human-trafficking/

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