A few weeks back, my daughter asked my wife and me if we wanted to participate in a march. My daughter is generally not political, so I wondered what this was all about. She informed me that July 30th is United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. That is a mouthful, but the day is to help raise awareness of human trafficking. An organization called Operation Underground Railroad planned a rally and march on that day. My daughter didn’t know we had been donating to Operation Underground Railroad for the last couple of years. So, of course, we were interested.
We gathered with about 300 others at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas. We marched from there by way of various government office buildings to the headquarters of the Dallas police department, chanting, “Save our children,” as we went. Here are a couple of photos of us and some of our grandkids at the march.
Despite what it looks like, except for the photos, we wore masks, too!
We hoped to raise awareness, particularly with law enforcement agencies, of the massive problem of human trafficking. Everyone has heard of it, but few know much about it.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, with an estimated 30 million victims of human trafficking in the world today. There are more slaves today than at any time in history. From 2015 to 2017, there were more instances of human trafficking in Texas than any other state except California, so it hits close to home for me.
The most vulnerable among us have the highest chance of being trafficked. These vulnerable persons include migrants, the poor, drug abusers, the homeless, those from broken homes, those who have a mental illness, those with limited educations, runaway youth, and foster children.
But it can happen to anyone.
Victims are not always kidnapped or physically forced into slavery. Traffickers often defraud, trick, and manipulate potential victims using false promises about the work or the nature or conditions of a job opportunity. In this clip from Human Trafficking,[i] a 2005 TV miniseries, the new “boyfriend” of one of the victims sells her to others on what she thought was to be a romantic trip to Venice. A front for a modeling agency enslaves the younger victim. Traffickers kidnap the third victim (age 11) on the streets of Manilla in the Phillippines while she and her family are on vacation. The clip is long, but it is worth watching (although hard to watch because of the treatment of the young women):
The perpetrators of human trafficking control their victims by not only threatening harm to the victims but to their family members and others close to them as well. And trafficking is a huge business, with profits estimated anywhere from $32 billion to over $150 billion (with a “b”) per year. It is even more profitable than drug trafficking. While you can use cocaine only once, you can use a trafficking victim over and over again. An average, a pimp can make about $200,000 a year per victim. Many victims become drug abusers, who take drugs to dull the pain of what they are going through.
There are two million child sex slaves throughout the world. But most traffickers do not take their victims for sex. Sixty-nine percent of trafficking victims are in forced labor, and many of these are children. The film, Slumdog Millionnaire,[ii] is an example of that. Adults use children, especially homeless ones, to beg on the streets for them. And the more pathetic the child is, the more they can collect. So, handlers often intentionally harm their young workers, as illustrated in this scene:
There are just as many males trafficked as females. Many of the males are LGBTQ. Traffickers do not always hold their victims in chains in dark basements. In many cases, victims stay because they do not have the essential resources they need to leave and live independently. And the majority of victims who are rescued return to their handlers because they have nowhere else to go.
Thankfully, organizations such as Operation Underground Railroad can help. They not only rescue trafficked children and adults, but they also provide shelter and other resources to keep these victims from returning. Tim Ballard founded Operation Underground Railroad. He is a former CIA agent who left government service because he determined he could do more to stop human trafficking working for a private organization than through the government. The documentary, Operation Toussaint,[iii] tells his story. And it is a compelling one. You can watch it on Amazon Prime Video. Here is its trailer:
Did you catch more grim facts from the trailer? Traffickers sell a child every 30 seconds for sex or labor or organ harvesting. The total of these children is over 60 million worldwide. Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the United States. America is the highest producer and consumer of child pornography.
As of February 2020, Operation Underground Railroad has rescued over 3,500 victims and helped with the arrest of 2,400 perpetrators of human trafficking. But they are not the only superb organization enlisted in the fight against human trafficking. Others include Valient Hearts, FAIR Girls, Saving Innocence, The A21 Campaign, The Polaris Project, and Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships.
So, what can you and I do? For starters, we can support organizations like Operation Underground Railroad, either financially or as a volunteer. We can help raise awareness of human slavery among lawmakers and law enforcement. We can protect our children and grandchildren by monitoring their use of technology and by warning them of job opportunities that sound too good to be true. We can learn the red flags of human trafficking, and if we see something that concerns us, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can be smart shoppers. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) maintains a list of goods and their source countries which it has reason to believe are produced by child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards. We can support companies that employ recovering victims of human trafficking. For example, the majority of the employees of an essential oils company in North Texas called Savhera are former victims of sex trafficking. They couldn’t find jobs elsewhere because of their criminal records.
Most of all, we can spread love and concern, especially among our poor and most marginalized. Someone said, “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.” Or, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
Let’s not be silent. Please become an abolitionist and help solve this global problem. Let’s rise up for children everywhere.
[i] Human Trafficking:
- Production Companies: For Sale Productions (Muse), Mel’s Cite du Cinema, and Muse Entertainment Enterprises
- Starring: Robert Carlyle, Donald Sutherland, and Mira Sorvino
- Release date: October 24, 2005
[ii] Slumdog Millionnaire:
- Production Companies: Celador Films, Film4, and Fox Searchlight Pictures
- Directors: Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan
- Screenwriter: Simon Beaufoy (based on the novel by Vikas Swarup)
- Starring: Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto, and Saurabh Shukla
- Release date: December 25, 2008
[iii] Operation Toussaint:
- Production Companies: DNA Films
- Directors: Nick Nanton and Ramy Romany
- Screenwriter: Katie Tschopp
- Starring: Tim Ballard, Tony Robbins, and Glenn Beck
- Release date: July 10, 2018