Posted March 29, 2017on:
Over the weekend I edited a short fundraising video for organizations that help victims of human trafficking. These are all religious institutions and the women interviewed were all nuns. One from NYC, one from London, and one from Mombasa, Kenya.
Human trafficking is the 2nd largest crime industry in the world, only behind drug trafficking. It generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profit – at the expense of human lives. And it is also the fastest growing “industry” in the world today. In 2012 it was estimated that as many as 20.9 million people around the world were victims of human trafficking. Imagine what those numbers are in 2017. Human trafficking includes sexual exploitation (including sexual slavery), forced labor, organ harvesting. The International Labour Organization (a United Nations agency) last compiled their statistics in 2012. Some excerpts:
90% are forced to labor for private economies or corporations
22% are in forced sexual exploitation
55% are women and girls & 45% are men and boys
26% are under the age of 18
Sister Jane Kimathi, from Mombasa, speaks of victims as young as 4 years old, forced into prostitution. Many, she says, come to their safe houses unable to speak because of the trauma. Some stay with the Sisters for as long as two years, as they try to rehabilitate them and find new homes. While their order is Catholic, they welcome all victims and their prayer room is nondenominational. She mentioned that Mombasa is a popular tourist destination. But the “tourist destination” designation is people who come there specifically searching for young children to abuse. Because of the many conflicts in Africa, the number of refugees spikes the numbers of slaves. They are people looking for ways to support their families. Nobody is looking for glamour or prestige in the sex trade, Sister Kimathi says. “It’s poverty and desperation.” Some of the children were sold by their parents into slavery. Some are orphans and some are runaways who were promised happiness by relatives, who then exploited them.
It’s a story the Sister from New York, Joan Dawber, picks up on. Sister Joan runs safe houses in Queens. She described one woman’s story: She came to New York to be a student, sponsored by an extended family. When she arrived, the family forced her to become their slave. She never attended school. She was forced to take care of the family, including raising their young children. She was forced to eat off the floor. Not just having her plate on the floor, she didn’t have a plate. Whatever food she was allowed to eat was put on the floor. If she was hungry and snuck any food out of the fridge, she was punished. She was her family’s slave in Queens, NY for five years. Her salvation came in the form of a neighbor who suspected something odd based on the young woman’s behavior in public. She tried to speak to her repeatedly, ask her how she is, only to have the young woman run away. Eventually the neighbor gave the woman a cell phone with pre-programmed numbers for the police and safe shelters. The young woman finally found courage to escape, using the cell phone to call for help. She has since finished school and lives in New York.
Sister Dawber points out that human trafficking exists in every state of the USA. It is not an issue that only happens out there somewhere. It exists all around us. It could be the waitress in a restaurant, or a manicurist at the nail salon. They could be of any age and any race. It can be almost impossible to know that this person ringing up our groceries is indentured to someone.
Sister Lynda Dearlove runs a safe house in London. Their organization primarily helps prostitutes. The interesting thing is that their mission isn’t strictly to “rescue” the women from prostitution. It is to offer them a safe home and counseling when in need. Many only come to spend the night, take a shower and eat. Some then return to the streets. The Sisters there never force anyone to stay. Many women have been coming to them for years for a night or two of peace. The Sisters hope that by offering women a shelter and offering them counseling they can help them enable themselves. Sister Dearlove passionately says that the can not force anyone to do anything. The best they can do is show the women that there is hope and they need to find it for themselves. Maybe not today, but possibly tomorrow. “They are valued and they are loved, and if anything happens to them we want them to know that we will miss them.” She says that people blame women for becoming prostitutes and that it is one of the biggest challenges we as a society face: The need to understand that if any of these women choose prostitution it is only because they are fleeing abuse, or drugs, or so many other possible traumas. Many are trying to support families and stay alive. They must never be judged or condemned, she says. They must be offered hope.
Note: Sister Dearlove was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.
This is an open thread. What’s on your mind fellow Widdershins?
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