I read a lot of articles on the internet and subscribe to tons of facebook and twitter updates from all kinds of people and organizations who are involved in the fight against human trafficking. If you are involved even remotely in this battle, then you know that there is an explosion of information out there. Daily there are news articles about traffickers arrested, prostitution rings being busted, brothels discovered, and the list goes on.
One thing I’d like to suggest as all of this information flies at us daily is that we be careful not to make assumptions or fit the information into tidy little boxes in our heads, creating new comfort zones for ourselves within this uncomfortable subject. As you read, resist the temptation to latch onto (misleading) statements that make it easier for you to assimilate the information into your comfort zone. Because let’s face it – none of us are comfortable with any of this information, but within that discomfort, we still have different levels of comfort. Because of this, we are at risk of relegating some sectors of trafficking survivors back into the “invisible” category, because their kind of trafficking story doesn’t fit into our compartmentalized comfort zones regarding human trafficking.
Let me give an example. One news story that circulated over and over the web in the last two weeks was the one about child sacrifice in Uganda (here). While I have quite a bit of respect for the author of this article and want to note that she has dedicated her career to really understanding and exposing the issue of human trafficking, this article has the potential for setting us back in the fight against human trafficking. Read her opening statement:
“Human trafficking often involves prostitution and forced labor of victims. But in Uganda, traffickers buy and sell children against their will to use their genitals, heads, and blood for ritual sacrifice.” (emphasis mine)
While we are all willing to become enraged that this atrocity is happening “over there” and take a few minutes of our time to even sign a petition (not sure the devil reads those, but ok) demanding that this be stopped, we have immediately fallen into the trap of compartmentalizing that level of horror to an “over there” problem.
Now can you see how we form comfort zones within this terribly uncomfortable subject matter?
While the author’s opening statement (above) is propagating a belief that the trafficking of children for human sacrifice is an “over there” problem, the truth is that it is indeed a problem of epic proportion HERE as well. By not acknowledging this, a whole segment of trafficking victims here in the US are relegated back to the place all trafficking victims were here in the US just a few years ago – invisible. Unfortunately, these victims are not in a place to speak out AT ALL, and because their “traffickers” are highly sophisticated there is little to no research or proof of this here in the states.
Something to ponder: If people in Uganda would ritualistically sacrifice children, why wouldn’t people in the US be doing that? Human nature does not change from culture to culture. The epitome of evil is no different from one continent to the next just because one set of people is more sophisticated about hiding their sin.
Consider these statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
The U.S. Department of Justice reports
- 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
- 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
- 58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.
- 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. (These crimes involve someone the child does not know or someone of slight acquaintance, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.)
If you take the total number of missing children (797,500) in a year and subtract the three numbers that represent a known outcome for the children, we are still left with 535,285 children whose whereabouts are unaccounted for. Where are they? What has happened to half a million missing kids every year? On behalf of those children, I implore you not to make assumptions that fit into tidy boxes in your newly created comfort zones.
Some of them have been ritually sacrificed right here in America. Guaranteed.
Some of them will be ritually sacrificed today, right here in America.
And the future of those children who have been or will be trafficked into this horrific reality? Well, that depends on us – to stop living in our little trafficking comfort zones that give us the luxury of believing that this kind of trafficking only happens over there.
This concept must be applied across the board. Challenge yourself. I’ve read articles that have implied that all victims of sex trafficking are women and children. Not true. I’ve read articles that suggest that sex trafficking here in America is predominantly a race or income issue. Also not true.
We must fight the temptation to be trapped into false comfort zones and assumptions that leave entire segments of trafficking victims hopelessly trapped in our ignorance.