Yesterday, I watched my 5 year old son playing happily after school, with that twinkle in his eyes, so unique to children.
I remembered that one little boy in Nana Plaza…
The first time I witnessed human trafficking was while on vacation in Bangkok, Thailand. Walking past Nana Plaza, a famous red light district, I noticed two expatriate men accompanied by very young boys, no older than 6 years old. My heart was wrecked.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness month.
It’s a somber subject and disturbingly real in Florida. It’s not dinner conversation and denying it’s existence, is probably easier. I knew nothing of the dark underbelly of the Sunshine State until a year after I’d moved here. I was appalled to learn that Florida is a top hub for human and sex trafficking, with one of the the highest incidences in the country. Surprise, considering Orlando is a hot tourist destination- 62 million visitors in 2014, alone. Since 2006, 32 Disney World employees have been convicted on charges of sex crimes against children. Last year, ‘Operation L &P’ uncovered a prostitution ring arranging sex with minors; at least three of those arrested were employed at SeaWorld and Disney World.
Human and sex trafficking is a $32 billion modern global slave market second only to the illicit drug trade; here, in the U.S, more than 100,00 children are at risk of being sexually exploited. But this isn’t about Human Trafficking 101 or statistics.
It’s about human beings.
With names and faces.
This doesn’t happen in just a seedy alley of Thailand or a war zone like Syria. You don’t have to look further than Orange Blossom Trail or the pictures of smiling missing children posted on the wall of your local WalMart. The tragic fact is that many victims, more often than not, end up being trafficked without even realizing it, until it’s too late. Fear for their lives, loss of their dignity and despair keep them enslaved. The physical and emotional consequences of being prostituted, subjected to abuse and violence are abysmal.
I’ve agonized over it time and time again.
I want to be thin skinned enough for it to affect ME.
What can we do, as women and moms?
- Be aware and be informed of what is taking place in your city. There are many local non profit and faith based organizations in Orlando who are working on rescuing trafficked women and children; providing them with safe houses, love and rehabilitation, so they never have to return to that life again.
- Be willing to be an instrument of hope – the most desperate craving of the broken human heart, that someone cares; that there is a way out and that no life is beyond restoration. Let compassion move you.
- Consider donating your time or money to a local shelter or organization. Experience a day there and listen to their stories.
- Be bold, be audacious. They need you to be that for them. It can get uncomfortable, depressing and disheartening at times, but believe that you are truly making a difference. One life at a time.
- Communicate with and safeguard your children. Not all victims are from disenfranchised backgrounds. Monitor their activity online, the internet is a predators playground.
“Our lives begin to end the day we keep silent about things that matter.”
For more information on organizations that are operating to combat human trafficking, both locally and internationally:
A faith based program that helps women journey from sexual exploitation to wholeness and productivity.
A community based program founded by Diane Scimone, working to stop child trafficking in Orlando and internationally, by reaching at risk kids through education. It’s being actively implemented in more than 65 countries. A children’s book has been published Born To Fly, a portion of the proceeds go to stop child trafficking.
Love146 is an international human rights organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation through survivor care and prevention. Look for a local chapter in your city.
A non governmental anti human trafficking organization campaigning against modern slavery.
The Department of Homeland Security collaboration with law enforcement, government and NGOs to fight Human Trafficking.
“I am like a bird that is flying freely. Although she went through a great trial, she does not lose hope that she will see the sunlight.”
Natalia, a survivor of child trafficking (Love146)