Human Trafficking Awareness

Book Review of Walking Prey: Sex Trafficking of America’s Youth

Author Shares Her Child Sex Trafficking Nightmare

After reading so many headlines about child sex trafficking, I decided to read and review Holly Austin Smith’s Walking Prey (2014). The author is an unusually brave sex trafficking survivor who travels across the country relating her experience when she was only 14 years old. Smith cites many statistics, provides reasons for the prevalence of child sex trafficking and gives practical advice on prevention and the rehabilitation of victims.

Smith recounts being an awkward teenager who felt disconnected from her family and alienated from her peers when she ran away with a man named Greg who turned out to be a pimp. She candidly recalls her weeks on the streets of Atlantic City, her rescue, and rehabilitation treatment. The following is a few reasons young girls may be vulnerable to manipulative older men seeking to lure them into prostitution:

  • According to a 2012 Ohio Human Trafficking Commission report, young people involved in sex trafficking in that state experienced neglect (41%), abuse (44%), sex abuse (40%), emotional abuse (37%), and physical abuse (37%).
  • In 2011, an FBI report stated that many gangs use prostitution, including child prostitution, as “a major source of income” by “luring or forcing at-risk, young females into prostitution and controlling them through violence and psychological abuse.” The report estimated that there are 1.4 million gangs in the United States.
  • There are many cases of girls and young women promised well-paying jobs and then smuggled across the Mexico-U.S. border to be trafficked for commercial sex. Smith believes that American teens may also be lured into going to Mexico for this purpose.
  • In our consumer-driven society, children are constantly viewing advertisements sending the message that in order to be popular and accepted, they must obtain certain products. Many cannot afford all these products and those that do purchase them inevitably find they do no fulfill expectations. Compared to the images in the ads, children come up short. They then seek other avenues where they feel desirable and accepted. Pimps are on the look-out for girls who appear lonely and vulnerable and entice them with a lot of attention.

Smith is emphatic that these teenagers should be treated as victims rather than criminals. Pimps lure the ones who suffer from difficult family lives, low self-esteem, and little or no support.  And once these children are rescued, they require a great deal of help so they can enter back into society and live productive and stable lives. The author cites many cases, including her own experience, where survivors are treated like criminals. Some survivors actually end up becoming advocates and help put systems in place to facilitate the rehabilitation process for young survivors.

Surely, society must do better to prevent occurrences of sex trafficking in the first place by providing more support and resources for troubled youth.

Smith concludes that “Too many children and teens across the country, as well as their parents, have never heard about child sex trafficking in the United States, and this must change…Community members in general must be made aware of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children” (pp. 167-168).

I highly recommend Walking Prey to everyone, particularly parents of teenagers. It is an eye-opening experience that they cannot afford to ignore.

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Covenant House-Resource for Young Trafficking Victims

Since January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I am devoting all of this month’s posts to human trafficking information. For this one, I am writing about an important resource for victims. Covenant House is a privately funded agency that provides temporary housing, food, crisis care, and many other services for young people ages 18-21 who are homeless or victims of human trafficking.

Covenant House operates in many locations all over North and Central America, but I would like to focus on the Newark site, which is one of their seven locations in New Jersey. The crisis center allows young people to come in 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These youths are welcomed when they have nowhere else to go. The staff permits them to stay while they get help and work toward a stable life by setting constructive goals. They also protect victims of human trafficking and make every effort to stop the perpetrators.

Most human trafficking victims in the United States are forced to have relations with many partners against their will so traffickers can make money. Human trafficking is so prevalent for two reasons: traffickers can make large profits and the risk factor is low. Why? There are so many vulnerable young people who desperately need guidance from a concerned adult. With no one watching out for them, traffickers find them easy prey to manipulate. Another reason is the large number of homeless youth. I reached out to Covenant House in Newark to interview a representative. Unfortunately, no one responded in time for this post. If you would like more information, log onto their website https://www.covenanthouse.org

 

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Human Trafficking and the Super Bowl

Next month is the annual Super Bowl. While legions of fans will gather for parties and cheer on their sports teams, please keep in mind that this is also the time when human traffickers are their busiest, forcing their victims to have sex with strangers so they can make money. People who work at airports, hotels, and other popular venues for football fans should be extra vigilant. Victims generally do not carry luggage, may have bruises, and pay in cash. Everyone should be aware of the signs to combat this growing crisis. Call 911 if you see anything suspicious.

 

In Idelle Kursman’s debut novel True Mercy, one of the main characters is an escapee from an international human trafficking ring. She wrote the story to spread awareness for the human trafficking crisis. True Mercy is for sale on Amazon, IngramSpark, Smashwords, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

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January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Since January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, this blog will examine the known statistics of the human trafficking crisis in the United States and abroad. Polaris, a prominent anti-trafficking organization, compiled these figures and presented them on their website, https://polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/facts. Unfortunately, this criminal activity is on the rise. When I launched my book True Mercy on January 11, 2017, human trafficking was the third largest criminal activity worldwide, but it is now the second, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion business. The ILO accumulated some grim statistics on its prevalence. It is estimated that there are 40.3 million people being trafficked around the world. The following are the details they were able to gather in their report:

  • 81% are in forced labor
  • 25% are children
  • 75% are women and girls

The average age of labor trafficking is 23 while the average age of sex trafficking is 19.

What’s more, the U.S. Department of Labor found that forced and child labor are responsible for making 148 products from 75 countries. Even more chilling, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that 1 out of 7 runaways in danger is likely child sex trafficking victims.

These cases may be right in front of us but we do not recognize them. Why? Sex trafficking can occur in escort services and residential neighborhoods; sex and labor trafficking are most prevalent in illegal massage businesses, bars, and strip clubs; and labor trafficking is most likely to occur in domestic work and agriculture.

Everybody has a duty to learn about human trafficking and recognize it when it happens around us. No one is immune—rich or poor, city or country dwellers, Latino, African-American, White, Asian, or Mixed.

If you see something suspicious, report it.

National Hotline: 1-888-373-3888

BeFree Textline: 233733

 

Pardon!

Governor Bill Haslam, outgoing Tennessee governor, pardoned Cyntoia Brown, the 30-year-old woman who was handed a life sentence for murder. Brown’s attorney argued that she was a sex trafficking victim and was afraid for her life when she murdered Johnny Allen when she was 16. Since she has been in prison, Brown finished her GED and is one course away from earning her Bachelor’s degree.  Brown made the following statement:

“I am thankful to my lawyers and their staffs, and all the others who, for the last decade have freely given of their time and expertise to help me get to this day. With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”

 

Question: In his address from the Oval Office, President Trump said a border wall will help prevent human trafficking. What do you think?

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Screening of Breaking the Chain– Human Trafficking Documentary

 

Different Forms of Human Trafficking

 

Audiences saw shocking newspaper headlines run across the screen and heard harrowing testimonies during the award-winning documentary Breaking the Chain. Filmmakers Laura E. Swanson and Kirk Mason produced and directed this account of two survivors of human trafficking in Michigan.

One was a young man named Kwami who was one of four children kidnapped from his native Togo by a relative. His kidnapper, Jean-Claude Kodjo Toviave, brought him and the other children to the United States. Kodjo worked as a janitor at the University of Michigan and claimed the four children were his own. He beat them with brooms and threatened them if they did not complete their chores. This continued for five years until Kodjo was finally arrested.  Kwani recounted those years in the documentary.

The other survivor was Debbie, who spoke about her years as a trafficking victim when she was 13 to 18 years old in the Detroit area. Debbie described how she was lured in and what she and other girls had to do to survive during that terrifying time.

The documentary showed Kwami and Debbie today and what they are doing to rebuild their lives. Law enforcement, attorneys, and other experts described the situations they encounter while they hunt down kidnappers and counsel victims.

Filmmakers Swanson and Mason noted that Michigan is ranked number 2 of the human trafficking trade in the United States. The state’s waterways and location near the Canadian border facilitate transporting of people for this heinous crime.

They are making their documentary available for viewing in different parts of the country to educate and raise awareness of human trafficking. Although these crimes remain hidden in the shadows, they occur every day, transcending socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and race.

After the film, James M. Gannon, Sheriff of Morris County, and Susan Panzica, Executive Director of the Justice Network, spoke about what citizens can do to stop the proliferation of human trafficking, which includes labor and sex trafficking:

  • In the food industry, many coffee and chocolate companies use slaves to grow their products. Consumers can help end this practice by looking for the fair trade labels on products before purchasing them.
  • Recognize red flags, such as a young girl receiving gifts from an older boyfriend, displaying behavior changes, or experiencing alienation from family and friends.

Breaking the Chain may have a showing in your area. Check local listings. I can guarantee it is an eye-opener and worth your time. Keep in mind, human trafficking is happening everywhere.

If you see something suspicious, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888

For more information, log onto www.njhumantrafficking.org

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller that intends to bring awareness to the human trafficking crisis. It is available in print on Amazon and IngramSpark and in digital on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

 

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Double-Edged Sword of Modern Technology in Vietnam–Increased Connectivity and Human Trafficking

 

I recently came across a very disturbing article in last month’s The Independent Voice.  Vietnam is a developing country in Southeast Asia and its people are anxious to connect with the world using the latest technology.  Studies indicate approximately 68% of the Vietnamese have smartphones and an even higher percentage have internet access.  So while it is still often difficult for those located in rural areas to obtain running drinking water, technological use is widespread. However, internet use is unfortunately far ahead of safety awareness. Nowhere is this more alarmingly apparent than the growing problem of organized groups of young men sending friend requests to young girls on Facebook in an effort to trick them into forced marriages.

These men act as agents to lure young girls living in villages close to the Vietnamese-Chinese border. Why? Because in China men greatly outnumber women, and there are Chinese men so desperate to find women to marry that they solicit the services of these unscrupulous profiteers. These agents often travel to a well-known trading post on the border to sell young girls. Since Facebook is banned in China, Chinese clients are using “WeChat, Weibo, and Viber” as dating apps to purchase kidnapped brides.

Fortunately, charities like Pacific Links Foundation are working hard to combat human trafficking by doing what they can to prevent this criminal activity as well as provide support and resources for survivors. Written on the Pacific Links Foundation website are these frightening statistics:

  • Human trafficking is a growing $150 billion a year business, enslaving over 40 million women, children, and men in forced sexual and forced labor exploitation.
  • The chance of being enslaved in the Asia Pacific region is twice as high compared to developed countries.
  • Vietnam is a source country for cross-border sex and labor trafficking.*

Human trafficking in this region is only getting worse. Advocates insist more safeguards for internet users in developing countries must be put into place on par with users in the developed world in order to combat trafficking. Please check out their website at https://www.pacificlinks.org to learn more.

*Information taken from http://www.pacificlinks.org/counter-trafficking

Interested in reading a novel about the international human trafficking crisis? Check out True Mercy. Available on Amazon, IngramSpark, and Smashwords. True Mercy would make a perfect holiday gift for friends and family—designed to provide an engaging read as well as to inform the public on the evils of human trafficking.

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