I am sitting in anticipation of the press conference at 9:30, which I am unable to watch because I got rid of cable! (I might sneak over to the neighbor’s house). But what I am finding is that people’s commentary continue to show much confusion over the issue of Human Trafficking, abduction, runaways, captivity, education, and prevention. So throughout the day, as more comes out, I’d like to share a little from my perspective, having worked with 220 women from Ohio who have been held in captivity.
One woman commented on Theresa Flores’s facebook page that it isn’t very clear whether these girls were abducted or were runaways. I guess my first observation would be that it doesn’t matter. The legal definition of Human Trafficking recognizes abduction and runaway as the same point of entry. (force versus fraud versus coercion). Many of the cases of Human Trafficking that I know of were not ‘abduction’, like the movie “Taken”. Very few cases of Human Trafficking involve abduction.
They all involve a perpetrator.
Someone who deliberately preys on the weak or on someone they wish to harm. Someone who has someone in their sight– who they want to exploit. Many of these predators are not so bold as to steal them away from a family who will go to national news with it. Think about it– abductions like this hit news pretty much whenever they happen. Seldom. These predators have gotten really smart about how to trick people into a situation they don’t realize they are entering.
Recruitment– Many human traffickers have a whole network of people who are their recruiters. These are the charming, cool and collected people who start the relationship with a victim. Sometimes it is a woman who pretends to have a modeling agency, or an employment agency. Sometimes it is a charming young man at a mall who is taught to get as many facebook friends and phone numbers as he can– only to be turned over to traffickers. Yes- we have concrete reports of people doing this at the Polaris Mall, Tuttle Mall, and Easton. In another instance in the United States, from the walls of prison, a young woman told me her Aunt gets pretty young girls jobs at a local restaurant– and in return, she’d get all kind of clothing and shoes from the owner. Out of those girls, he was then finding the ones most vulnerable to being bought and sold. Some of the women we work with tell us it was a family member who recruited and tricked them, a neighbor, and in one instance– a hair dresser. Sometimes they were runaways. And those who were runaways were most definitely running away from something! And then, of course, some predators will deliberately try to find those who are cold, homeless, and strung out on drugs… because then they can nurse them back to life and create a dependency. (This straight from the lips of a young woman a few weeks ago…who was helping her trafficker recruit younger girls to escort here in Columbus)…
Recruitment is real. Predators are skilled. And it traps girls into a vicious life cycle at an average age of 12-14 in the United States. Out of the women we work with, we have seen every socio-economic status represented… every ethnicity is vulnerable– and every city in the United States is affected by Human Trafficking.
More posts later about the captivity part of Human Trafficking. I’m trying to catch the press conference somewhere…