It’s been a long journey from my first post on January 23 to my final post, which is what you are now reading. I’ll admit that I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I enrolled in this policy class. It was totally different from what I imagined it would be, but in a good way. But little did I know that I was about to embark upon a journey that would push me beyond my comfort zone and challenge me to actively use what I was learning to inspire and empower others toward action. My topic started off extremely broad as I thought that I would look at all forms of human trafficking (labor and sex trafficking). But I knew that my personal interest was more so child sex trafficking so as unintentional as it seemed for me, that’s where my blog ended up.
I expected more out of myself than what was required, which is a good thing. But like always, I over think EVERYTHING, most of the time to my own disadvantage. I’m very introspective and critical of myself. In creating this blog, I had all these good ideas, some of which never made it to the site. But nonetheless, I think I accomplished a lot and I’m very proud of myself. I think it took for me to show others outside of class what I was doing to realize that I had done good work and to really appreciate all the effort that I had invested in this site.
My main purpose in creating this blog (other than the fact that it was a requirement), was to educate as many people as I could about human trafficking in hopes that a seed of action would be planted. Last class we talked about our readings on “power” and how the people who have it intentionally create systems that enable them to maintain their power and make it almost impossible for others to grab hold of any of it. Victims of sex trafficking are often powerless against their parents, their traffickers, “Johns”, as well as the criminal justice system. Most of this is due to the “hidden” nature of human trafficking and how relaxed our current laws are. Policy advocacy is a way to upset the power imbalance and ensure that laws are put in place that protect our most vulnerable. I’m not expecting that people will necessarily read my blog and decide to become an advocate. All I can hope for is that people will read it and that it will spark conversation surrounding the issue and that one day conversation will spark passion that eventually leads to action, however small (this blog for example). How can we ever put an end to modern-day slavery if people don’t know that it truly exists and is happening in their own backyards?
I would like to say that I will keep up this blog and continue to use it as an educational tool, but in the hustle and bustle of everyday life (family, work, school, other activities), that may not be possible. But I do know that my passion for this issue started way before this class and that this class has fed my passion through all the knowledge I’ve gained throughout the semester. Although I have not yet decided in what capacity, I know that I will be involved with the issue somehow and somewhere, whether it be through education, advocacy or prevention.
Modern-day slavery…Fiscal cliff…Marriage equality…Obamacare…Gun control…Adoption equality
When the rhetoric surrounding an issue becomes the issue itself.
Last week’s conversation around “symbols” really got me thinking about how words or phrases can be used to evoke an emotional response in people in order to get them to support certain policies or points of view. How many times have we heard politicians use language that stirs us up on the inside (whether in a good or bad way) and makes us want to do something? Sometimes the catch phrases they use are arbitrary but like sheep we follow behind them because… they sound good. And let’s be honest, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News don’t do anything but replay these same messages over and over and over again, further bombarding us with political rhetoric. So what are we to do with these messages?
Sometimes I feel like political rhetoric is often used in a way that doesn’t really give people an option of making an informed decision or pretty much forces people to choose one side of the argument. I mean who would really argue against a policy to end modern-day slavery? And certainly no one would argue against marriage equality right? I mean don’t get me wrong. I get the point. But I think we can agree that in some cases, the rhetoric does not accurately reflect the issue.
I think part of the issue is that we try to oversimplify huge social problems by reducing them to rhetoric that has absolutely nothing to do with the real issues. Maybe it’s best if we just stop the wordplay and do the work that needs to be done, instead of having meaningless conversations generated by petty words.
I don’t think I can stress enough that human trafficking is an international issue, meaning it’s happening right now not only in Thailand, but also in Virginia. It’s not so hidden. It seems like every other day I’m hearing a story of a predator who has been detained or a victim who has escaped and survived. These stories give us hope. Make no mistake this is a HUGE human rights issue. But just because something seems difficult to address doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye or give up. I believe we have a responsibility as a people, whether you are in the social work field or not, to advocate for the human rights of all who are oppressed. It helps me to know that there are things we can do on a small scale to affect such a massive problem.
Look beneath the surface. Here are a few indicators that may suggest someone is a victim of human trafficking:
- Individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts, or cash;
- Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used;
- Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions;
- People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time;
- Places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants; and
- Workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions, and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease.
Human trafficking victims can be found in many job locations and industries—including factories, restaurants, elder care facilities, hotels, housekeeping, child-rearing, agriculture, construction and landscaping, food processing, meat-packing, cleaning services…as well as the commercial sex industry (prostitution).
And here’s one more thing to consider: while the majority of human trafficking victims in FBI investigations are from other countries and may speak little or no English, approximately 33 percent of victims are Americans. They come from a variety of groups that are vulnerable to coercive tactics—like minors, certain immigrant populations, the homeless, substance abusers, the mentally challenged and/or minimally educated, and those who come from cultures that historically distrust law enforcement or who have little or no experience with the legal system.
A Georgia man has pled guilty in a human trafficking case that involved Herndon, VA juveniles.
For some reason, I have always been drawn to stories of heinous, unthinkable crimes. I constantly get sucked into tv shows such as First 48, American Greed, Dateline, Snapped, and pretty much anything on the Investigation Discovery channel (don’t judge me). I will sit through an hour and a half documentary (when I should be doing school work) just to find out in the last five minutes the person’s motive behind the crime. I guess that’s why I majored in psychology in undergrad. I need to know why people do the things they do. It seems to me that more often than not (in cases that involve a real motive), people are motivated by one thing, MONEY! “As Gordon Gekko told us in the movie Wall Street, greed is good, so make sure that you have it working on your side. Yet Mr. Gekko was not entirely correct. Greed can be bad-even for people who are entirely selfish” (Wheelan, 2010).
Well, I can’t think of too many examples of when greed is good, but I have one in particular that’s extremely bad: people exploiting other human beings, even their own children, just to make a dollar. You know money is a powerful motivator if parents are willing to sell their own children to the highest bidder. Some even do so to settle a debt. A woman can go through over 12 hours of labor and then 5 years later sell her over the internet to strangers, knowing their intent is to sexually exploit them. What is the world coming to?
I hate to say it, but money makes the world go ’round. I almost wish it would stop spinning, if it means that innocent people would no longer be sexually exploited so someone else can make a buck at their expense.