Human trafficking means suffering, slavery, prostitution and death and the problem is closer to you than you might think
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)—Although human trafficking generally operates out of the eyesight or awareness of ordinary Americans, its tentacles reach into every community and neighborhood snatching away men, women and children who become slaves to the people who control them.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and survivors, supporters and advocates made their voice heard on Jan 11, designated as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2016.
According to officials of Zoe, human trafficking is a $32 billion a year industry with 20 million people enslaved around the world which is double the population of New York. Twenty-six percent are children, a quarter of whom are younger than 18. Zoe is an organization working to stamp out human trafficking and through its intervention program. It works with law enforcement and government agencies in raids, prosecutions, and the rescue of trafficking victims.
United Nations officials say every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. The link between the refugee and migration crisis and trafficking in persons was highlighted at the 2016 observance of the World Day against Trafficking of Persons by the UN Office for Drugs and Crime.
Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denounced the practice in remarks during the observance.
“Human traffickers prey on the most desperate and vulnerable,” he said. “To end this inhumane practice, we must do more to shield migrants and refugees—and particularly young people, women and children—from those who exploit their yearnings for a better, safer and more dignified future.”
Meanwhile, every year, human rights activists and advocates explain, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of criminals associated with human trafficking and are coerced, beaten and brutalized for forced labor or sexual exploitation. And every year, these human and victims’ rights advocates say, the problem is getting worse.
Thousands of individuals and organizations are involved in combatting and working for the elimination of human trafficking. One activist is Chioma Adaku, founder and executive director of Traffik Stops, a faith-based, global coalition that raises awareness about human trafficking through advocacy, education, and empowerment.
Since 2002, Mrs. Adaku said she’s been involved in her own personal battle against human trafficking and with Traffik Stops she formalized her work. Traffik Stops, based in Hampton, Va., was created in 2016, she said, with the support of religious organizations who share her concerns about the corrosive effects of human trafficking on victims and survivors.
“I am a parent and this created a disturbance in me,” Mrs. Adaku told The Final Call during a recent interview. “Three years ago, I was in Naples, Italy with my husband. I wanted an African sister to make some clothes and I met victims of human trafficking. I ran into a couple of African brothers who worked for a guy for five years and had never been paid because he provided them a place to live.”
“Then I went to Casa Ruth Safe House which is run by Catholic nuns. There were 25 women there, all human trafficking victims. I tried but I couldn’t get them out of the life. I couldn’t get them out of the life. They came to Italy because they wanted to be models but when they got there, they were assigned to pimps who took their passports and identification.”
When she returned to the United States, Mrs. Adaku, who recently served as chief of staff for Congressional candidate Shawn Brown, said she turned her attention to human trafficking in this country after seeing the signs of it all around her.
“In the U.S., there are upwards of 900,000 who are missing and many of them are pulled into human trafficking,” she said. “Virginia is No.1 in the nation for child sex trafficking and No. 6 for human trafficking. In 2016, 392 cases of human trafficking were reported in Virginia. Other states like Texas and California rank highly as well.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring captured the extent of the problem and vows to fight it.
“Human trafficking is an emerging public safety threat across our nation, including here in Virginia,” he said in a statement. “Trafficked victims don’t come from any one place. They come from large cities, small towns, different socioeconomic situations and diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. As Attorney General, combating human trafficking will be a priority in my office and I will work with the General Assembly, law enforcement and prosecutors to eradicate it in Virginia.”
Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General has supported legislation imposing increased penalties for traffickers. In 2011, the office partnered with the Department of Criminal Justice Services to train prosecutors, law enforcement, and victim-witness coordinators from jurisdictions across Virginia in how to investigate and prosecute human trafficking under Virginia law.
Victims are not commonly kidnapped as seen in the movie Taken, Mrs. Adaku said, but are manipulated by the friendship of those in their age group, are runways due to sex abuse, are moved through some mission groups or non-governmental organizations, exploited by family, peers, international third-party recruiters, employers, organized crime groups and organizations, recruited from strip clubs, massage parlors, intimate partners, neighbors, sex buyers, or they are kidnapped.
Significant numbers of those affected by human trafficking are people of color—Blacks, Asians and Latinos, Mrs. Adaku said.
“What is not commonly acknowledged is 85 percent are people of color. We need to unambiguously identify the connections between trafficking, poverty, immigration, gender, and racism to effectively end human trafficking in the U.S.,” she argued. “The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports statistics but 747 out of 1,442 reported incidents recorded no racial or ethnic origin.”
“Also, when people think of human trafficking they think of prostitution but people are stolen and their organs are harvested—a problem which is huge in Haiti—and some become victims of satanic rings,” she said.
Mrs. Adaku—who said she was victim of molestation as a child and raped by her first husband—indicated that it is commonplace for boys and girls to be brought into the sex life as young as age six.