I had never heard of human trafficking until the 2008 release of the movie Taken starring Liam Nelson. The movie is about the kidnapping of a young girl in Paris. Her retired CIA agent father (Nelson) goes to extraordinary lengths to recover his daughter from an Albanian gang of human traffickers. At 22 years old this movie scared me to death! Human trafficking can’t be real, can it? I was much like the girl in this film– living on my own and exploring the world around me more recklessly than cautiously. How many times have I shared too much information about myself to a stranger in bar or club? How many times have I trusted people I barely knew? This movie sparked my curiosity and led me to research human trafficking. Yet, most importantly it led me to be much more careful!
At the time, none of the research I was finding really addressed the presence of human trafficking in the United States. However, human trafficking and the overwhelming presence of this industry in the United States has been a strong theme in our course this semester. Human trafficking DOES happen in the United States and it DOES occur locally everyday. In class, we discussed the 13-year old runaway that was allegedly forced to dance nude at Club Madonna in South Beach. We learned about how large sporting events like the Super Bowl are a magnet for sex trafficking, so much so in fact that New Jersey established a task force to combat trafficking immediately after New Jersey was announced to host the 2014 Super Bowl. Dr. Patterson invited UNICEF students to our class to speak about human trafficking. One student even explained how the clothes we wear or the stores we frequent may inadvertently be supporting child labor and human trafficking.
One day I was walking through campus during my lunch break to find a student event happening on the GL Lawn. This sign propped up against a palm tree made me stop in my tracks. This faceless woman gave me pause. This woman, a beloved daughter, mother, and/or sister, no longer exists. At the hands of human traffickers this woman is into nothing more than a slave. This can happen. This does happen. I thought of the time my teenage niece ran away from home. She was found safe 3 hellish days later, but as I stood there starting at this I sign I was overcome with scenarios that could have been. My young, naive, beautiful niece could have easily become a faceless slave.
Freedom Week was organized by FIU 4 Freedom–a network of volunteers and organizations founded two years ago by Regan Kramer (Delgado, 2014). The organization had this sign displayed on the GC Lawn with a make-shift brothel for students to walk through. The brothel gave students a first hand look at the horrors of human trafficking.
Apparently, Freedom Week has been occurring at FIU for three years now. FIU 4 Freedom has seen the interest of people wanting to learn about human trafficking grow. Kramer, who works at the Wesley Foundation at FIU tells FIU News he hopes the interest on this issue continues to grow:
I know that God cares about the vulnerable and the oppressed in society so I want to use my time and energy to advocate for them. If I have the ability to speak, then I need to speak on their behalf because no one is speaking for them.” (2009)
Obama raises awareness of human trafficking with his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative (I strongly suggest your check into this organization–it is a fantastic and innovative organization that addresses all types of issues!).
So, what can we do as citizens to help combat human trafficking? According to humantrafficking.org, education is power. We need to learn how to recognize human trafficking and understand the different forms of trafficking (sex, & labor). As concerned citizens of the world we must also understand how people become trapped into sex or labor trafficking. Please visit the website for more details and REMEMBER anyone can report suspected trafficking cases by calling law enforcement at 1-866-347-2423 or report online at www.ice.gov/tips.
As public admininistrators we need to continue to spread awareness to as many people as possible. We have to remember that faceless woman/man/child deserves to be saved from this gut-wrenching fate.
Delgado, J. (2014, March 04). Students learn about realities of human trafficking in Miami. Retrieved from https://news.fiu.edu/2014/04/students-learn-about-realities-of-human-trafficking-in-miami/76280