A group of people enter the grand home of a man dressed in bright clothes. The man in red welcomes his guests and asks, “What would you like? Drinks, video games, girls?”
Nonchalantly, women were offered as part of a list of items and treated as objects used for entertainment. This scene is from near the end of a comedic film I recently watched. Closer to the beginning of the movie a strip club was introduced. More than that, a residence was attached to the club and it appeared that the women lived there–they possibly were not allowed to leave the club.
As the main characters were led through the residential area, at the back and up the stairs, they pass a room. In that room is about a dozen men and one, maybe two, women barely clothed. In another scene, at least half a dozen people are standing in their undergarments on a drug line. They’re not allowed to wear clothes to prevent the “workers” from stealing. Dozens of people do not elect to enter in this life. They aren’t the ones making the money–it’s their bosses that they fear. Yet, we don’t realize the biggest problem in these scenes: human trafficking.
Human trafficking was not a theme in the movie–it probably was never meant to be portrayed. These people are beautiful, and without scars. No matter how short they may be, fictional scenes like this unintentionally fuel misunderstandings–the ill conceived notions that victims want to be in this life and that they are free to come and go as they please. Hundreds of people collaborated on this movie, but no one noticed that there were characters, without names, that were being subjected to both sex and labor trafficking. I found myself heartbroken. Heartbroken because in the background, sitting unnoticed, was modern day slavery.
If project team members did not think twice, would other viewers notice?
Much like in the movie, in life human trafficking happens in the background–it occurs off to the side. Society does not see it. Even when signs are present, we often do not recognize human trafficking. We NEED to see the signs and we need to stand together and say enough is enough.
When we watch a movie and we see the main character enter in an agreement with an antagonist, and then the antagonist alters the arrangement, we can sympathize with the protagonist. He/she did not want to be there, they were threatened, they did enter a plan willingly but then the bad guy changed the game. Why then do we question people in the real world who find themselves in a bad situation such as human trafficking? Why do we approach real people in a manner that suggests that they want to be trafficked and harmed? If thirty minutes to an hour of background information is all it takes for us to understand a person’s story in a film, then we should take the time to educate ourselves on the signs of human trafficking. Make an effort to understand trafficking from the victim’s perspective. Realize that human trafficking is a different culture–survivors and victims have a specific understanding of the world and how they need to live. This is where we start in order to end human trafficking in Eastern North Carolina, the United States, and the world. Eradicating slavery requires us to start recognizing the signs and speaking up.
If we all decide that every person matters–that every person deserves to be free–free from disease, free from hatred, free from judgement, and free from slavery–and if we make the conscious effort to insure that freedom is achieved, then human trafficking will be eradicated. The only catch is that it is our responsibility–we have to choose to become abolitionists. We can do it. We can end this.
Below is a list of signs of human trafficking that the Polaris Project posted on their website. Link: https://polarisproject.org/recognize-signs This list is not all possible signs, however. To learn more please visit their website and/or www.traffickingresourcecenter.org. Both are excellent resources.
If you suspect human trafficking or need to ask for help, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
“Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
- Lacks health care
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead
Writing for Freedom,