Whenever I have heard about human trafficking or modern day slavery in the past, I have always thought of those in labor trafficking. I think indentured servants and folks that want to work but end up in shady deals without resources or connections.
I have never really thought of the sex trade. At least not locally. I have thought of women that are sold into the sex trade in other countries but never here. And never as simply as prostitution.
This last week I had an interesting situation when I met a woman who was/is basically involved in prostitution and wants to get out but doesn't know how. I've heard of people working with women in similar situations in Vegas or otherwise, but have no personal connections to anyone in such work. So, I emailed a couple of friends/colleagues and asked for their advice and direction.
One friend has worked on sexual and domestic violence issues for years and she recommended the Polaris Project. I looked around their website and thought to myself, "I'm in the wrong spot." But decided to call the 888 number anyway. They offered some additional numbers of "local" (LA based) organizations who might be able to help.
I still wasn't sure I was connecting with the right people. But I called the woman back and gave her the numbers. It was when I was explaining things to her that it all really clicked. It was when I made the connection that the "connect" is really a "pimp" who is really a "sex trafficker" that it all fell into place. He is pushing/selling ("trafficking") sex and she is merely a pawn in his game.
I know it sounds hard-hearted to say I wasn't super compelled to deal with issues of modern slavery or trafficking before, but it's the truth. Not that I didn't care, but I didn't have any personal connection to it. I couldn't put a face to the issue. But now I have. And now that I have made these connections in my head, I have many more faces of others who have shared stories of being forced into prostitution, "lent" out for sex, or caught up in ritual abuse.
I've worked with many survivors over the years, but now there is a whole new light shed on what happened to them, and what continues to happen to millions of others.
Please know that we are not immune from such abuses, nor are our friends or families, or neighbors. We have to call the abuse for what it is and do something about it.
Recovering from such abuse and breaking the cycle (both literal and figurative) is tremendously hard work. But it's invaluable work.
Please take some time to read through the Polaris Project website and work to educate yourself on these issues.