As I write this, it’s 10 degrees outside, with a windchill of 8 below 0. Not much fun, even if all you’re doing is scooting from a building door to your car.
Now imagine being homeless. And a trafficking victim.
Mary David writes that the severe winter weather is a burden on the trafficked population, even though shelters in larger cities work to offer longer hours and services to those on the streets:
But what about the abuse that takes place at homeless shelters? What about the fact that many well-meaning groups and organizations lack the resources or means to keep out pimps, recruiters for traffickers, and those who otherwise take advantage of helpless women and children? Those who target these locations because they know the vulnerabilities of the people who enter?
With the Super Bowl in New Jersey this year, CBS is predicting a chilly day for the fans and players. And under all the hype, parties, much-anticipated commercials and fun of a big sporting event, is a parasite that attaches itself to big league sports: human trafficking.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott: “It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
Dallas police and federal authorities arrested 133 minors for prostitution during the 2011 Super Bowl, and according to Forbes Magazine 10,000 prostitutes were transported to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010.
A United States Department of Justice investigation from January 2008 to June 2010 discovered that 40 percent of human trafficking incidents involve child prostitution or the sexual exploitation of a child. UNICEF estimates there are nearly 2 million children in the commercial sex trade, and major sporting events have become a nexus for sexual predators and a haven for sex trafficking.
Victims of trafficking range from mere children (9 years old) to adults. Many were abused as children. Many left home voluntarily, trying to escape abuse, only to find themselves adrift on the streets. Young, alone, uneducated…what choices are there?
A trafficker will seem generous, affectionate, offer care and comfort for this mother and child. It may seem, at first, to be the best option. And even when the situation goes awry — she goes out on the streets, being watched by her pimp, giving all that she earns to him… he is still watching out to make sure other pimps don’t interfere. He is guarding “his commodity.” In some way, it might even make the teen feel like he values her, because she is producing something for him.
We can all help. We can learn the signs of trafficking (and stop doubting that it isn’t happening where you live.) We can support organizations like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Polaris Project and Freedom Place, all of which work to educate about human trafficking, work to prevent it, and help victims in recovery.
As Pope Francis recently noted when speaking to new diplomatic representatives:
“This cannot continue,” he stressed. “It constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of the victims and an offense to their dignity, as well as a defeat for the global community.”
“All persons of good will, whether they profess a religion or not, cannot allow these women, these men and these children to be treated as objects, deceived, violated, often repeatedly sold, for various purposes, and at the end either killed or ruined physically and mentally, to end up discarded and abandoned. It is shameful.”