Most of us think of slavery as something modernity has eradicated, an unfathomable evil that thankfully is no more – yet the truth is that currently there are more enslaved people than at any other time in history; it is just that slavery looks different from how it did in the past and how we might think of it. Estimates are that there are 27 million people in the world who are enslaved, 13 million of whom are children. Many of these individuals are lured into enslavement through false promises, lies and deception – tales of a better future far away from the individual’s often poorer community or war torn land although some individuals are simply kidnapped and taken away (http://www.alternet.org/story/142171/there_are_more_slaves_today_than_at_any_time_in_human_history; http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county).
Human trafficking (the modern day term for slavery) is the fastest growing sector of organized crime and is the third most profitable, with profits in the billions of dollars, form of organized crime – drugs being first and illegal arms sales being second. While unpaid labor is a common form of enslavement, prostitution is also a large sector of human trafficking – with women and children comprising the majority of those trafficked for prostitution. Estimates show that in the U.S. per year: 17,500 individuals are trafficked into our nation and per the FBI, roughly 100,000 children are sold for sex. The average age for a child first being trafficked is 12 years and children/teens who have run away from home are intensely vulnerable to being trafficked (since LGBT youth make up a significant portion of runaway teens, LGBT youth are at an even higher risk for involvement in forced prostitution) (http://www.sdyouthservices.org/site/DocServer/Trafficking_in_Children_by_Manolo_Guillen.pdf?docID=141; http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131757019/youth-radio-trafficked-teen-girls-describe-life-in-the-game; http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county; http://sdgln.com/news/2010/02/09/sex-trafficking-hits-san-diegos-lgbt-youths; https://oig.justice.gov/reports/FBI/a0908/chapter4.htm).
A natural response to hearing this tragedy is to think that this horror occurs in countries or parts of the U.S. that are far removed from us, yet once again the truth tells a very different story. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) listed San Diego as a “High Intensity Child Prostitution Area” and as a gateway to international sex trafficking (http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county; http://sdgln.com/news/2010/02/09/sex-trafficking-hits-san-diegos-lgbt-youths; http://www.sdyouthservices.org/site/DocServer/Trafficking_in_Children_by_Manolo_Guillen.pdf?docID=141).
Another natural response is to wonder what if anything one can do to help and while the need is colossal, one small thing we can do is to express our support for Representative Susan Davis’ bill H.R. 2268, the “Empowering Educators to Prevent Trafficking Act”. Rep. Davis is from San Diego and has introduced this bill, which would allocate grant monies to the Justice Department to give to school districts that, “establish, expand, and support programs— (1) to train school staff to recognize and respond to signs of labor trafficking and sex trafficking; and (2) to provide classroom curricula to students on how to avoid becoming victims of labor trafficking and sex trafficking” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2268/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+2268%22%5D%7D&r=1). While these educational programs cannot stop the torrent of trafficking, they could and I believe would help save some children – and that is worth every penny and every dollar.
Rep. Davis’ bill actually has bi-partisan support (5 Republicans are original co-sponsors) and is currently in committee, namely the House Education and the Workforce on which Hunter sits….