On Monday, April 28th, the League of Women Voters of Southwest Nassau presented a program on Human Trafficking at the Elmont Memorial Library. Human Trafficking, is today’s cleaned up words for the slavery, that takes place right here in our own country. Right here in our cities, suburbs, and neighborhoods. It doesn’t look like the slavery that we saw depicted in Twelve Years a Slave. There aren’t the chains, though there can be, there aren’t the whippings though there can be. There aren’t the auction blocks, though people are sold behind closed doors. There is intimidation and fear. There are lives that are entrapped forever and whose lives belong to someone else. Lives without hope.
It is now the year 2014 and slavery is still with us. It is not the open and approved slavery of the early days of our country. There are young boys and girls lured into sex trafficking, and young people sold into indentured service from which they find it almost impossible to escape. And yes it is slavery, because these are people lured with false promises of better lives and trapped in a web of lies and fear. A web so tight that they lose any sense of control over their own lives and too often a loss of the sense of reality of what a normal life can and should be.
This is what the meeting was about and our speakers shared their extensive experience with us. We had two speakers from Safe Horizon. Deanna Croce, Training and Outreach Manager and Jacqueline Melendez, Intensive Care Manager. Joining them was Sister Mary Katherine Hamm, from the LifeWay Network. They joined forces to have us understand what is there to see and what we choose not to see.
Here are some facts: there are reportedly up to 300,000 child prostitutes in the U.S. today; The average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the U.S. is for girls, 12-14, and for boys, 11-13; 1-3 teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. One out of four girls and one of every six boys will be molested by the time they turn sixteen. Long Island is listed among the top 20 trafficking hubs in the country.
And if you ask why this continues to exist here amongst us, the answer is simple. We tend to ignore it, and it’s big, big money. Globally it’s a $32 billion business. In the U.S. alone it’s a $9.5 billion business. A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 each year per child and the average pimp has 4-6 girls in his control. Money will continue to talk unless the people speak louder.
When some of these trapped people do reach out, Safe Horizon and LifeWay work with them to try to get their lives back together again. They get counseling, medical care, and shelter. All this is for a limited time since resources cannot fully meet the needs of so many of these unfortunate people out there.
As individuals, there are things we can do. Learn more about Human Trafficking, its causes and types of exploitation and demands. Educate others, tell friends and talk about it with your doctors, relatives, and your house of worship community. Place posters and/or material at your place of business or at other places that you frequent. Advocate for legislation that will address root causes and assist trafficked persons. Explore how your purchasing practices might link to a trafficked person who may be indentured into forced labor. It is in the back rooms of stores and restaurants we deal with. Many of these people are the cheap labor on our farms that fall into the indentured category. Human Trafficking comes in many forms that taint our society.
If we make it important to us, we can put a dent in this blot on our society. We speak of charity for all. These people who are victims of trafficking are part of us, a needy part of the “all”. We can remove them from the list of the ignored and forgotten.
The facts listed are from the various sources accrued by the material of LifeWay and Safe Horizon. Contact with the speakers can be made at Sister Hamm: firstname.lastname@example.org, Deanna Corce: email@example.com and Jacqueline Melendez: firstname.lastname@example.org.