(The Picket)- When presented with the concept of human trafficking, I like many of us, saw a vision of children in Africa or India being sold off by kidnappers, something dramatic and horrible that happens on the other side of the world.
This is the picture I was expecting to see when viewing the documentary film “In Plain Sight” What I got was a wakeup call. The first few minute of film show a woman being interviewed giving her story, she states she was sold off by her mother to her pimp when she was just 8 years old, she has been living in this situation ever since, she looks to be about 30 years old. The catch is this isn’t a woman in Africa, this is a blonde white woman on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, less than three hours from Shepherd University.
This is not on the other side of the world, this is in our back yard.
“In Plain Sight” is a striking picture about what happens to these individuals and what is needed to help in their recovery. I strongly recommend anyone who can to watch the documentary, but the greater issue that needs to be address is reason we needed this film.
Human trafficking according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is defined as, “Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.”
This is a huge issue and one that is being ignored under the idea that it cannot be happening here. The viewing of “In Plain Sight” and after discussions was set up by the office of student activities, according to Shepherd University staff Rachael Meads.
We need this awareness; we need to see that this is happening and that the victims can be right in front of us.
The first big question is who are these victims? And secondly how did they get there?
These victims are people often with troubled childhoods, neglected or abused by family members. Some can be runaways and some are forced into these situations by the people who are supposed to care for them. According to the film, runaways are often approached by human traffickers within three to four hours of running away. The additional big problem with this is the victims are conditioned to feel that this treatment is normal, and that they have no choice. Victims can be controlled by threats, or being cut off from outside contact.
Again these are not children in another country; these are children, young men, and women in our own nation who have been through earlier abuse already. This is an ugly subject, and a reality we need to face andin the words of our discussion speakers: “A shift in our culture is needed.”
We need to see this as something happening around us and an activity we should do something about.
In the words of Rita Neiman with the Shepherd Anti-Human Trafficking Task force, “We all eed to wake up together.” Which brings us to our next point, what can we do?
The biggest thing we need is to be aware of what’s going on, look for signs. Does this person appear to be controlled? Are there signs of physical abuse? Does something just not feel right here? If the answer is yes then we need to do something. We can report the action call The National Human Trafficking Resource center hotline #1-888-3737-888, or use the phone app Truckers Against Trafficking.
Now if you want to do something about this before you see it, there are some opportunities in our community. You can get involved with Change Purse, an organization that raises money to help victims of sex trafficking by visiting www.changepurse.org or contacting Dotsi Cambell at email@example.com. You can join the Shepherd Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force by attending their next meeting on Feb. 11 at 11:00 a.m. in the student center or contact Rita Neiman at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit Freedom Fighters of the Eastern Panhandle on Facebook. Let’s be the shift our culture needs and not allow a victim to walk alone in our sights.
Jessica Sharpless is a staff report for The Picket she can be contacted via email email@example.com