By Jennifer Timmons December 2014
Human trafficking arrived in my neck of the woods this year – the last day of last month to be exact.
Two men were arrested November 30th, 2014, in a nearby hotel in Somerset County, Maryland, for holding two young women against their will; fortunately, one of the women managed to call her mother, who alerted state troopers, and they were rescued.
But not before one of the women had been beaten in the neighboring state of Delaware and threatened with murder if she tried to leave.
After seeing the news on television and absorbing the shock of recognition of the hotel as being literally down the road from me (a few miles away), I began to think about those women during the week and many things associated with human trafficking.
To my mind, human trafficking is slavery. Held against your will. Unrelenting control and fear. You have no life anymore.
Someone other than you is running your life.
The two rescued women were engaged in prostitution and originally consented to have one of the arrested men find clients for them. The other man served as security, watching over them.
Now, a very insensitive person commented on one news website that if two adults agreed on the terms, what's the big deal?
The big deal, Insensitive Person, is that they feared for their lives after one of the women was beaten and they were threatened with death if they tried to leave. And held against their will.
How can anyone not be fearful in that situation?
Never mind the women had engaged in prostitution and initially gave consent; will anyone even ask what compelled them to do so? Perhaps they were desperate with no viable job opportunities. Or maybe they wanted to engage in prostitution? Some women do; that's their business, in any case, and no one else's.
According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons is defined:
“...as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
Held against their will. Those words have really stuck in my mind all week long. Beaten. That has occupied my mind, too.
And my heart. I have witnessed and known women who've been beaten, physically and verbally. Doesn't matter whether they're family, friends, or strangers halfway around the world; I feel ultra-sensitive to the sufferings of women who've been abused.
I count my lucky stars that I have never been in such a situation of being held against my will nor physically beaten. The closest I came to that was when I was threatened with rape by a date, during my college years. Those unnerving moments with my potential rapist seemed like the California earthquakes I experienced: 15-plus seconds that felt like eternity in what amounted to a tense stare-down.
Not a pleasant memory; however, I managed to muster all the fierceness and anger within me to say very calmly and directly while looking him straight in the eyes:
“You need to take me home.”
Home was my college dormitory at that time, and he took me home. He didn't have to if he chose, but I was grateful and hugely relieved he did. I harbored an underlying fear and great anger for many weeks afterwards.
And I wouldn't doubt these two women had and still have fear and anger towards their traffickers/kidnappers stirring within them.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be held against your will and beaten? Not knowing whether your captors will show one shred of mercy towards you?
The Polaris Project, an anti-human trafficking organization, says:
There are two primary factors driving the spread of human trafficking: high profits and low risk. Like drug and arms trafficking, human trafficking is a market-driven criminal industry that is based on the principles of supply and demand. Every year, traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people around the world, including here in the United States.
Furthermore, they add:
- The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, including 5.5 million children. 55% are women and girls.
- In 2013, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, operated by Polaris, received multiple reports of human trafficking cases in all 50 states and D.C. Find more hotline statistics here.
I often wonder what drives people to enslave others – is it really only for profit? I realize that sounds quite naive on my part, and I probably am!
But every time I hear about people who get arrested for trafficking, I have a mixed bag of emotions: huge relief that they were caught and bottomless pit, deep-down disgust that they ruined a life or many lives.
They lost their humanity, to put it mildly.
That kind of news gets me so unnerved, causing my hands to shake as I type and my blood boiling, that it makes me want to yell out to the accused:
“Hey Mr. Trafficker...Ms. Trafficker:
Who do you think you are?! You have royally fucked up other people's lives! Do you care?They may look fine on the outside, but you've scarred them for life. They will remember what you did to them.
For what?! So you can live a fine life? Have a big, fancy house, drive a sexy car? Live like the filthy rich characters you see in tv and movies? That's all fiction. And beat the crap out of your captives, threatening and torturing them at your whim so you can feel in total control?
Does it give you a perverse pleasure to make another person's life miserably shitty day in and day out without rest, so you can have money to please yourself?
Would you do this to your mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, wife, or girlfriend?!
How would you feel about someone trafficking a female member of your family?
You have NO conscience! NO heart. Where did you lose them?
Ms. Trafficker...more shame on you. How could you treat another human being like you did? Another woman, like you! [or many women!] Were you once trafficked yourself? That gives you the right to do the same to other women? You say you didn't do any of the beatings or torture?
You were still involved in procuring women and screwing up their lives!
You all deserve the punishment to the fullest for what you've done. I look at your long faces in your mug shots online and tv, while you're being led away by police. Too bad for you! Your fun is finished. You've ruined lives.
Maybe one day you'll realize what you really did and be genuinely sorry for it.”
Those are my exactly thoughts, each time I hear about a raid on a trafficking operation, with varying degrees of spitfire disgust and an excess of four-letter words! And sometimes I do shout that aloud at the computer screen, just to let off steam.
That's how angry I feel when human beings treat their fellow human beings so despicably.
Likewise, I also have deep and abiding sorrow for those who'd been held – and continued to be held against their will, exploited, threatened, and battered in body and mind. Trapped in lives of misery, as the FBI says on its website.
It's not right. But I sincerely hope they can pick up their lives and find some sense of peace and get justice in the courts.
They deserve it.
As do the two women who were rescued in the hotel down the road from me. More power to you, sisters, wherever you are.