HEADLINES: Trafficking

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In today’s technological age, traffickers are turning more and more frequently to social networking in their search for victims.  Members of street gangs are using mediums like Facebook to find and coerce young women into the sex trade.  This past week, a gang leader from Virginia, Justin Strom, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his leadership in a sex trafficking ring.  Members of the gang contacted young, attractive girls using fake identities and then “lured their victims to meet them in person and often plied them with alcohol.  Thereafter, the victims had to perform a mandatory sexual ‘tryout’ or in other words they raped.  After the mental, physical, and sexual abuse it wasn’t too difficult to ‘convince’ the victims into engaging in commercial sex.”  Abusers would also use threats of violence and drug addictions to traffic these women and force them to stay captive.  The FBI “found that Strom’s victims were from every socio-economic background and ethnicity.”  There are no demographics that are free from the horrors of trafficking.  Human trafficking continues to be a highly profitable and prevalent crime throughout the entire United States.  [Examiner]

Truck stops are a magnet for both vulnerable runaways and those who would wish to exploit them.  Thus, truckers are in a unique and important position to be able to work against trafficking.  Acknowledging this, the group Truckers against Trafficking was recently created.  Kendis Paris of TAT explained her organizations focus, saying, “Truckers are right in the midst of a lot of what goes on.  And for the most part, they want to help.  Our focus is on trucking, but we are trying to establish a network of abolitionists, people who see the problem and are willing to do something about it.”  The group is partnering with other larger anti-human trafficking organizations, such as the Polaris Project, in order to achieve their mission.  TAT is working to encourage truckers to speak up if they see something that could be involved in trafficking.  For example, “they can keep an eye out for cars pulling up to the curb and letting a group of girls, three or four, out.”  Hopefully, by promoting awareness and action at the grassroots level, Truckers against Trafficking can make a real difference in the fight against modern-day slavery.  [Tribtoday]

Many Eritrean asylum seekers who arrive in Israel are victims of human trafficking, and one former Eritrean refugee, Sister Aziza, who now works for Physicians for Human Rights, is working to document their plight.  Many asylum seekers are physically and emotionally broken when they arrive in Israel, and Sister Aziza believes that sharing their stories can be an integral part of their healing process.  When asked about her work, she said, “The wounds are healed by the doctors.  But the internal suffering, for the internal wounds to heal, it takes time.  It takes strength, it takes faith, it takes courage, it takes a lot.”  Sister Aziza has just been given by the US State Department a Trafficking in Persons Heroes Award.  [CnnFreedomProj]

As the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation is celebrated tomorrow, anti-trafficking activists remind us that slavery is still very much present in the United States.  While slavery today is very different than its 19th century counterpart, we cannot act as if human trafficking, modern-day slavery, is not an issue in today’s world.  Gary Haugen, president and CEO of the International Justice Mission, said, “Americans at all levels need to be aware that human trafficking is a real problem.  We need to raise awareness amongst commercial enterprises that are making money off of trafficking without perhaps knowing it.  We also need to make sure that the chief of police, the sheriff and local attorney understand that slavery is an issue across communities.”   As we celebrate all of the achievements that the United States has attained over the past 150 years, we must also realize that we have far to go.  [Tampabaytimes]

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