Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Fight Against Human Trafficking

Like many of you, until I sat down to talk with Jean Waris and Brian Hudzik, the main thing I'd heard about human trafficking in our area was the story of new regulations for massage parlors in Warren.  But as Jean and Brian made clear, "human trafficking" isn't something that happens far away, nor is it happening only in massage parlors.  The term refers to anytime someone is forced through violence or coercion to do things they wouldn't normally do, so it applies to most forms of prostitution and also occurs in other types of labor.

After our interview, Jean sent me the story of Theresa Flores:

Theresa lived in an upscale suburb of Detroit. Her father was a mid-level manager in some type of business who was transferred every two years. Theresa attended a good high school where she met an upper level classmate who raped her. Unbeknown to her, pictures were taken during the rape. Several days later the classmate approached her with the pictures threatening to post them all over her school and church and to send them to her parents and her father's boss. BUT...if she would do a favor for him, he would give her the pictures. 

After midnight she received a call on the phone in her bedroom telling her to be on the corner in front of her house in 10 minutes and a car would pick her up. She was taken to a location where she was raped by a number of men. This continued for TWO YEARS! She would be called several times a week, she never knew when. It was always a different location and different men. She was terrified. They follow her younger brother home from school in a big, black, slow moving car. He was scared. She was terrified. Their small dog turned up dead in the yard. She told no one. And no one noticed. After two years her father was transferred. She told no one. She just didn't turn up in school. She had escaped!

I heard Theresa speak last summer and she told of being somewhere and hearing about HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Suddenly she realized that there was a NAME  for what had happened to her and that it was a CRIME. Theresa has shared this story in her book The Slave Across the Street. 

 Jean and Brian are involved in the local portion of a growing national movement to fight human trafficking.  You can learn more about the broad effort from the Polaris Project.  Just this week, Governor Kasich announced a "statewide war on human trafficking" as part of his State of the State Address.  Locally, the Anti-Human Trafficking Core Group of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative is working on both policy issues and strategies to help victims.  If you want to get involved, call the MVOC office at 330-743-1196.

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