Recently, a speaker from Fierce Freedom came to speak to my high school class about the importance of raising awareness about human trafficking. “The mission of Fierce Freedom is to raise awareness and educate people about human trafficking.” To my surprise, slavery is the fastest growing crime on the planet, and it is the third most popular crime in America.
The victims of human trafficking go through a vast range of experiences. There are those who are tricked into selling their bodies due to promises for a better life; there are those who are taken advantage of because they ran away from home or have low self-esteem. Some are sold by their families or parents for money. Overall, the vulnerability of these innocent individuals will get exploited by traffickers. The average age that human trafficking begins for these victims is from 12 to 14, and those being trafficked can range from boys to girls, or 4 year olds to 40 year olds.
People who are trafficked may endure anything from being sold for sexual interactions, to being held against their own free will to be a permanent housekeeper, having their organs sold on the black market, being used for the transportation of drugs, and having their lives taken away from them. “You lose all sense of self identity,” stated the speaker from Fierce Freedom. There are many physical and mental punishments for those who are being trafficked. The person could potentially be fed once a week, transported without their approval, struck with disease, suffer from frequent beatings, and amass a plethora of guilt and shame through tactics such as "guerilla trafficking," where the traffickers will physically harm the loved ones of the victim so they will cooperate. Overall, there are a variety of experiences that people have had when being trafficked, and the amount of victims is starting to appear insurmountable. Recognizing the severity of this problem is certainly an important aspect of Fierce Freedom.
In various countries around the world, where human trafficking may be a normalcy, it’s hard to crack down on these cases. In poorer economic areas, selling one’s own son or daughter to be trafficked is an economic norm, as it would allow the family cover the expenses for their other children. In other countries, such as Thailand, there are women, boys, and girls chained to the streets, and shoppers can purchase these individuals and use them for their bidding. In many instances, these buyers are military men or American men that will buy women and sell or rent them out to other men for services. This aspect of human trafficking is considered a “hidden crime,” due to the online interactions of the sellers and buyers. However, steps are being taken, and it’s important to recognize that.
Human trafficking, as of last summer, has now became a felony offense in my state of Wisconsin. Additionally, communities around Wisconsin are attempting to put certain ordinances in place that can be used to help victims of human trafficking. Statistics can be hard to track, due to the lack of voices speaking out and coming forward on their experiences of human trafficking. This is a result of the stigma and shame surrounding this topic. It may seem challenging to conquer such a terrible crime, but creating self-awareness and communal-awareness of the warning signs and how you can help is a great start.
There are many common warning signs to look out for, such as dating a significantly older man, new expensive clothes or jewelry without a change in work, or a drastic change in a group of friends. The person being trafficked may also have a new tattoo that could potentially serve as a barcode or another way of “branding” the individual. These people may also be unaware of where they currently are, they may be in poor physical health, or their speaking might be prohibited without a third party present.
Trafficking victims experience severe PTSD and are in need of help once they are relieved from their physical tortures. Mental strain can continue to weigh heavily on those who have been trafficked and it can be a life long process to heal and fully move past the pains from those experiences. If you see any of those signs and think someone may be in imminent danger, please call 911.
However, if you don’t know if someone is being exploited and have questions, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. To receive more information on Fierce Freedom and how they are "exposing modern-day slavery in our hometowns," research fiercefreedom.org.
Hello, my name is Zaria Whitacre and I am 17 years old. I am on the Child Advocacy Team at Bolton Refuge House, member of my high school’s student council, student newspaper, public relations officer for my school’s chapter of Amnesty International, and a member of Teen Literacy Initiative. I write for Affinity Magazine, Noise Complaint, and make frequent submissions to my hometown newspaper. I wish to inspire others to stand up for their beliefs, be confident, and always compassionate to those you don’t understand. I’m not sure what I want to do in the future, but I know I want happiness for myself and those around me.