Updated: Feb 10
Imagine with me – there’s a 14-year-old girl named Trish. She is looking forward to high school next year and has a bright future ahead. She is involved in choir and is excited to join the school soccer team in the fall. She is compassionate and kind; always looking for opportunities to help her friends and family.
Her family is “pinching pennies” due to her father’s recent unemployment. It is a temporary struggle that is causing a lot of stress to Trish and her family.
Trish is walking home after school on a breezy, September afternoon. She walks past the old diner, the post office, and the public park; her usual route. In the distance she sees young children laughing on the swings. She is mindlessly enjoying a peaceful afternoon.
A good-looking young man, who appears to be about 20 years old comes into her view. As he’s walking past her, he briefly compliments Trish on her style. She stops to thank him. They engage in conversation for a few minutes and then he bids her farewell. He mentions that this is now his usual route so they may bump into each other again sometime.
As the days go on, Trish runs into this charming young man frequently. Their conversations get longer and she begins to confide in him. Subtly, the young man begins to manipulate and isolate Trish, gaining control.
Trish tells him of her family’s financial troubles and her desire to help. He promises her a job and tells Trish that he wants to help.
And so it begins. Trish becomes victim to sex trafficking and spends the next several years being controlled by her puppeteer. Her hopes, dreams, and family are stripped from her, replaced by slavery, isolation, and darkness.
According to sharedhope.org, “Sex trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act.”
Similar to Trish’s final snare, “More than 60 percent of women and more than half of trafficked men were lured by traffickers by a promise of a job.”
14-year old Trish also was in a target age group, “The reality is that in the United States, the average age of entry into prostitution is between twelve and fourteen years old, and in some parts of the world, it can be as young as three to five years old.”
You may be thinking… “Well, that is certainly an unfortunate story, but this really doesn’t affect me or anyone I know.” Think again. “According to the 2005 ILO (International Labor Organization) global report on forced labor, there are at least 12.3 million people in forced labor at any point in time, among which trafficking victims are about 2.45 million people.”
No one is immune to this spreading epidemic. Emmy Meyers, a victim, survivor, and advocate “wants people to know that sex trafficking can happen to anyone ― and that the people buying women and girls can come from every income level and from every community.”
As members of our homes, communities, and society we have opportunities to make a difference.
May I suggest a few points of action:
1. Stay informed. Better understand the reality, signs, and danger of sex-trafficking. There are various online forums and advocacy groups that provide information.
2. Talk about it. Share the facts about sex-trafficking with your children, family, and loved ones. With knowledge, comes prevention.
3. Report immediately. If you or someone you know or come across falls victim to sex trafficking, report it! For urgent concerns, call 911. You can also contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
My hope is that you and I remember Trish’s story and recognize that it is not far fetched or unusual. This scenario happens time and time again all around us. May we each raise our voices and fight against this modern-day slavery that plagues our society.
By Jamie Siggard