Reposted from: Examiner.com
Human trafficking is often thought of as happening in a far distant land. It is true that it happens in places such as India, Africa, and Haiti but many Americans are unaware that it is happening right here in the United States.
Every year, there are approximately 17,500 individuals who are brought into the United States for the sole purpose of human trafficking. This figure does not include people who are immigrants, runaways, displaced, or poor who are already living in America. Some reports state that number could go as high as 60,000.
Human Trafficking is actually defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons: by the threat or use of kidnapping, force, fraud, deception or coercion, or by the giving or receiving of unlawful payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, and for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.” (Humantrafficking.com)
Christian author and speaker, Dillon Burroughs, realized the reality of trafficking when he was traveling. “I went on a humanitarian trip to Haiti and as I was researching, I realized there was slave trading and selling of people going on there. In one particular area, within a 24-hour period, you could purchase an underage girl, 9-years-old, for $150. I came back saying, ‘We have to do something about this.’”
Burroughs knew there were people trying to create basic awareness, but he wanted to do more. “I started partnering with a couple of organizations. Home of Hope Texas is seeking to provide aftercare services for former trafficking victims. Joshua’s Mission is involved more on the front end of doing research, creating awareness, and helping to partner with law enforcement officials to actually rescue people who are found in this situation.”
Burroughs spoke on statistics and how tragic the unawareness is in this country. “There are 90 cities where human trafficking arrests have taken place in the last decade. I just read a report about domestic minor sex trafficking that said approximately 100,000 people within the U.S. are exploited in some way. If you added all of the aftercare centers for minor sex trafficking victims, you would probably have about a 100 beds or so that people could stay in for long-term care secure treatment. That doesn’t even make the smallest dent in the problem that we have today.”
Aftercare and justice for traffickers are passions of Burroughs. “There are around 39 states that have specific trafficking laws that have passed since 2000,” he explained, “but the problem is that law enforcement does not always know how to identify trafficking issues. Traffickers are often times arrested and released on bail until trial. (If convicted) they could get a year and a half. This can vary greatly from state to state.”
Another problem is if a woman or child is brought to safety, many times they are too afraid to tell their story. “Sometimes the women are called back to testify and that is an emotional situation in itself,” Burroughs explained. “Sometimes the girls do not want to tell their stories so if you have someone who is not willing to testify, the case often gets dismissed or gets changed in some way.”
Fear is the main factor. “If they are international, they are told not to trust or they are told they could be deported.”
Home of Hope Texas is currently preparing their property to hold approximately 50 trafficking victims. The brand new site has had some enormous obstacles. “There are permits required and they are trying to raise about 1.5 million dollars for a first level building that will house 15 females,” Burroughs explained.
The organization is hoping to be done with this phase in the next year and a half. They eventually will have several housing groups “to minister to Spanish speaking backgrounds, Asian speaking backgrounds, and other nationalities,” Burroughs stated.
There are two main concerns for the staff of this facility. “If they are from a different country we have immigration to deal with. If they are from America, it is not as much of a factor,” Burroughs explained. “Also, you can’t have a shelter for a former trafficking victim without placing it in an undisclosed location with full state of the art security that will have to be monitored electronically and with people on the premises 24/7. This is an enormous expense over your typical care center.”
Houston Texas has “127 identified brothels,” said Burroughs. “Many times they do not shut them down because there is no place to put the victims. A lot of times they are taken to Salvation Army places or a homeless or teen runaway shelter and you can imagine these people are not going to be able to fit in. Especially if they are from another country and they have been trafficked into the United States. They don’t know English. They don’t know their rights. They don’t know where to begin and it creates a very difficult situation legally, not to mention the actual recovery from the sex trafficking itself.”
Since October of 2000, when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was enacted, there has been small progress. More states are coming on board. More training is occurring in cities, but the awareness is just so slow moving. Burroughs wanted to help with this venture and created American Coalition of Abolitionists. “This is an online awareness campaign for people who care about this issue, want to help spread the word in ways to make a difference, contact representatives to make legal changes when they are pending, make sure that when working with businesses or buying products or goods that they are free from slave work. We also want to get the stories of victims out there with ways to help.”
If you are interested in getting more involved, contact the American Coalition of Abolitionists online. Call your local congressmen. Find out about your state’s laws and anti-trafficking task force. If there is not one, see what needs to be done. Every state is different. Refer people online and give stats and facts about human trafficking in the United States. Invite someone to talk to your local churches and state and city meetings. Find out if your local law enforcement and emergency workers are trained in the area of trafficking.
The Polaris Project, an agency fighting human trafficking, reports that “modern day slavery is the second largest criminal industry in the world, over 12 million people worldwide are trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation, and over 200,000 children are at high risk for sex trafficking and commercial exploitation in the United States every year.”
“My heart,” Burroughs concluded, “is that we have to create awareness as well as do what we can to help the victims. It is a tragic thing, as large as this is and yet so few people know about this.”
Another great site is Shared Hope International.