Downriver resident seeks to spread word of area human trafficking issue

I have touched on the subject of human trafficking in my last couple of articles. This week I want to branch out and give you a little more information on the subject. Most people think it only happens in other countries, not ours. Most people think it only happens in other states, not ours. Well, it’s time to open our eyes. Detroit is No. 2 in the country for human trafficking and Toledo is No. 4. Geographically, Downriver sits right between the two.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex. Traffickers may target young victims through social media, websites, telephone chat-lines, after school programs, on the streets, shopping malls, in clubs or through other students who are used by the traffickers to recruit other victims. In fact, a person can be trafficked without ever leaving his or her hometown. Statistics will show you that over 60 percent trafficked are trafficked by someone they know. A father, mother, brother, aunt, uncle or an older peer at school.

I am not trying to scare anyone, but I am afraid for our children, afraid that no one is paying attention. There are known traffickers at our malls and yet tween/teenagers are being dropped off daily with no supervision or awareness guidance. Did you know the average age of a child that is trafficked into the sex-trade industry is between 11 and 14 years old?

It is time to use the tools we grew up on. Who remembers this: “It’s 8 p.m. Do you know where your child is?”

“The streetlights are on, I have to go home,” is my all-time favorite. In my family, it was my father’s famous whistle. You could hear it from anywhere. We knew what that meant: to get home. It was a time where we ate dinner and did homework together, and didn’t seem to have the freedom of today’s youth.

We as adults need to take the responsibility for our children and make sure they know about human trafficking. There are many ways to make your child aware without scaring them, but if the instance does present itself, your child will have the tools they need to make sure they aren’t harmed. I am not insinuating parents aren’t doing their jobs, but I am saying that the conversations concerning this matter are not being done or often enough. Most children don’t have a clue as to what to do in these situations. And that is what we are trying to help with.

About two years ago I was at a remote party store with my daughter, who is 30 but looks much younger. She went into the store and I stayed in the truck right outside the front doors. The owner of the store emerged in the front of the glass doors, spoke on his phone as he stared out at me. He did this for about two minutes and it struck me as odd. He never waved, nodded or acknowledged me, but I knew he saw me. About 30 seconds later, a little sports car came through the parking lot, so fast I thought he wouldn’t be able to make the corner to go behind the store. As he passed, I noticed his windows were tinted so dark you couldn’t see the driver. The car sped around the back of the building and I sat there waiting for my daughter. Then a thought ran through my head: They came to get my daughter.

I grabbed my keys and phone then ran inside. My daughter stood at the front counter and the owner on the other side, I told them I forgot to ask her to grab some gum. As I walked to the aisle where the gum was, I noticed the back entrance was pitch black but I could feel someone looking at me. I kept an eye on the door until we were safely out of the store. Now my daughter will tell you that I am a straight up crazy, overbearing mother but I spoke to a police officer who works in human trafficking and he said that I probably saved her life. He said they could have taken her out of the back door, put her in the trunk then she would’ve been gone. To recap the story still makes me a little sick: What made me have that feeling? What made me go in the store? What happened to the next girl in that store? It was after this event that I knew I had to be more productive in this fight against human trafficking.

Did you know? Each year, as many as 100,000 to 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex in the United States.

The average age a girl enters the commercial sex trade is 12 to 14 years old. For boys, it’s even younger – just 11 to 13 years old.

The ratio of girls trafficked is 60 percent. The ratio of boys trafficked is 40 percent.

Sources: U.S. Department of Justice, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

With Halloween fast approaching, we all know the 11- to 16-year-olds are the children that go out on their own, so let’s give them some information to make them safer:

1. Never go into anyone’s house.

2. Never get into a car – even if you know the person.

3. Do not dress promiscuously – so not to draw attention.

4. Warn them about older peers that pay attention to them.

5. Always have check-in times.

6. Take a picture of your child before they leave for trick or treating. That way if they go missing, you’ll have an updated picture for Smart911.

7. Sign up for Smart911:

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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