Since I started working for Catholic Charities I see the world in a whole new way. Issues I’ve learned about on the news . . . on Dateline . . . on Law & Order . . . it is suddenly real as I begin to match them with the faces of kids I’m growing to love.
Human trafficking is a modern term for slavery. It’s the fastest growing and one of the most lucrative forms of criminal activity in the world. The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person …, for the purpose of exploitation.” Exploitation may include slavery, forced labor, sexual exploitation, and in some cases even removal of organs.
A large percentage of trafficking victims are adults. My new world focuses on kids. These kids are hidden in our world. In your world. They walk among us confused, scared, hurting, and alone. And the perpetrators of the abuse aren’t just the people who traffic the victims. Trafficking exists because it’s lucrative. It’s a business. Traffickers are the sellers, but everyone else is the buyer. Sometimes . . . it’s even us. Look at the fields when you drive past them. We have a tendency to think they are populated by undocumented workers. Most of them are. And a big percentage of those undocumented workers are working in that field because they are afraid not to. Yes, they came without permission. Yes, they followed a dream. But they never got where they wanted to go. They never found their mother’s cousin in Tennessee. A lot of their families think they died in the desert. They can’t communicate, have no education, no money, no way of escape, and the only people they know have threatened their lives to make them work or are equally threatened. And they pick the food we have to eat, they build our buildings, they clean our houses. Sex trafficking is even worse because we pay for that too, but out of our selfishness and pride. We never know what people do behind closed doors, what they do on business trips. Honestly, the more I learn the more cynical I am of the human race. Young innocent children scarred for life by selfish amoral American citizens. It makes me angry. Really angry. Well, it always made me angry . . . but now I’m MAMA BEAR angry. And all I can do is love my hurting kids and help them heal one at a time and try to come up with some sort of comforting response to the question “Why me?”
Until last fall, the California state penalty for human labor trafficking was a maximum of 8 years in prison, with no stated penalty for sex trafficking without force. Let that sink in for a minute. Scaring a kid into prostitution doesn’t count. You have to beat the crap out of them first. Fortunately, on November 6, 2012, Proposition 35 was passed in the State of California. Prop 35 will increase the length of prison time and an increase in fines for those committing human trafficking crimes. It also includes sex trafficking.
January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
This coming weekend (January 11-13) has been named “Weekend of Prayer to End Slavery and Trafficking.” Please join me in prayer for this global issue, its victims, its customers, and those of us who are called to make a difference. Below are some images of documents with more information (you can click on the images to view them larger). Please take the time to explore a couple of websites that share more about efforts to intervene and how the Body of Christ is stepping up to love the forgotten.