This post is written by Xan, who I am honored and blessed to call one of my very best friends. She is also one of the kindest souls you will ever meet. When I asked if she would be interested in writing a blog post, she decided to write about human trafficking, a global crisis that affects millions. Keep reading to learn about her experience with A21, and follow the links to get involved.
October 15 dawned dreary, clouds and drizzles overwhelming the day’s forecast. Normally on such days, I try to wear bright colors and lighten the mood with an orange shirt or pink pants, but today was different. I donned all black – with a sweatshirt turned inside out so the print didn’t show – and drove to Lincoln Park in Chicago to spend the morning in the misty gloom.
Two hours later, I sprinted over to slap some black duct tape over my mouth and fell into line behind more than 200 people, all with mouths covered, all in black. We were quite the somber processional as we silently snaked single-file on our two-mile journey through the park. Many held signs reading, “Every 30 seconds someone becomes a slave,” or “The average age of a victim is 11-14 years old,” or “Over 27 million people are currently in bondage worldwide.” People watched with bated breath as we passed, quieted by our silent force and the weight of the dark truth we were proclaiming. Tears were trickling down my cheeks by the end.
Two weeks ago, I was a participant in the A21 Campaign’s annual Walk for Freedom and in the inaugural Chicago walk (watch a video of the walk here). A21 stands for “abolishing injustice in the 21st century,” and it is an organization geared toward prevention of human trafficking, protection of victims, and prosecution of violators. It also works to raise awareness of this often overlooked global issue of modern day slavery. Every year they do this in part by hosting a worldwide walk for freedom, which I so fortunately go to be involved in this year.
Human trafficking is an issue near and dear to my heart, not because I am survivor nor do I personally know anyone affected by it, but because it is an issue that flies completely under the radar for most people. It is shrouded in so much secrecy that it easily becomes out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Unlike other serious issues we encounter every day such as global warming (should I recycle this plastic?) or water conservation (turn off the faucet!), you will most likely never encounter or realize you are encountering human trafficking. And in the United States, most people have dissociated from the issue completely. When asked about human trafficking, most people will concede they know it exists, but assume it is a problem only in other countries, places underdeveloped and foreign to them.
Unfortunately, human trafficking is rampant in the United States. This year alone, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center has had 5748 cases of trafficking reported in the US. Of those cases, 4177 were reports of sex trafficking, 824 were labor trafficking, and the rest were unspecified; females were disproportionately involved, accounting for 4803 of the 5748 cases; California was the most involved state (1012 cases). And this data is just from January through September 2016.
It’s easy to think it couldn’t happen where you are, but it happens EVERYWHERE. I’m originally from Missouri, the very center of the country. These are the nicest, most Midwest-y people you’ll ever meet. There are no coastlines, no huge cities, not much international touring–it’s about as safe as it gets. And yet Missouri has already had 106 cases of human trafficking this year. Even in Kansas– where there is nothing but corn and nothing ever happens–40 cases of human trafficking this year have been reported.
Perhaps you are now thinking, “That sucks, but why should I care?” Or maybe you are sympathetic but thinking, “Well, what in the world can I do?”
Both of these thoughts are fair. I know it can be difficult to care about a problem that doesn’t personally affect you. It also seems really overwhelming as I throw numbers at you, and rather hopeless given the hidden nature of the problem. But please remember those numbers represent people. People like you and me. People with hopes and goals and dreams. People who did nothing to deserve this suffering. And many of them are children with entire lives yet to live.
The most important thing we can do is educate. Learn more about this issue and the reality of our current global situation. It will be painful, it will be unpleasant, but only then can this problem that affects millions of people worldwide begin to affect you personally. Cultivate this compassion within your own heart then share it with everyone. Open the eyes of your friends and family to this injustice and help cultivate love in their hearts. Then let that love lead you to do what you can to end modern slavery. Whether it is donating money, publicly walking through a park, or maybe even helping unmask hidden trafficking rings, you can make a difference in this fight.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
Visit A21’s website to learn more, donate to their cause, or start a fundraiser in your city.