When we hear the ugly word, trafficking, what comes to mind? We may think first of the congestion on highways at rush hour. But human trafficking is a far more horrible thing. The average age when first trafficked is 13 for girls, 12 for boys.
Let’s first imagine that you are 15 years old, male or female. You live in perpetual fear. Not of algebra tests or getting a prom date or passing the driver’s license exam–the usual worries of your peer group. No, you are the possession of a human trafficker, who uses and abuses you, exploits you at whim and keeps you isolated. You are convinced that no one knows about your private hell; no one cares. No one has ever told you that you’re bright or beautiful—or that this deplorable situation isn’t your fault.
Somewhere deep within you know this isn’t right, that somehow you are better than this. But you have no idea how to break out of your cage. Once trafficked, your life expectancy is 7 years. It’s unlikely you’ll ever celebrate your 21st birthday.
Until one day—the freedom you’ve dreamed of arrives. Police beat down the door where you’re held captive and arrest your owner. “You are free!” they announce.
Except that–you don’t know what this means. Furthermore, there is nowhere to house you.
Let’s leave your imagining there, and interrupt with statistics. 100,000 children a year in the US are trafficked; it’s a $32 billion business nationally. The U.N. estimates that 2 million children world-wide are trafficked.
There are only about 300 beds available in the US for those who are rescued. Most kids wind up in foster care or juvenile detention. Neither placement is appropriate: often, they ran away from foster homes which were abusive or negligent. And they’re the victims, not the criminals. Read next week about what a group in Oakland, CA is doing to provide a house of healing for minor victims.
Meanwhile, if you have suspicions that someone, especially a child under 18, is forced to engage in sex or a labor activity and cannot leave, call:
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888