Benjamin Franklin once opined that one should “either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Here I endeavor to do the former in the hope of inspiring the latter.
You know the children who inspired this writing. They share our cities, our neighborhoods, our civic centers, libraries, playgrounds, schools, and houses of worship. They span all walks of life and suffer various vulnerabilities, but they are all our charge. They are our pupils, our patients, and our clients. Some are truant, some runaways, some intimately involved in juvenile justice. They are the victims of one of the fastest growing criminal trades, and Atlanta is at the apex of that industry.
We have made significant strides since the 2011 passage of robust human trafficking laws, but according to Attorney General Sam Olens on January 11, 2014 (National Human Trafficking Awareness Day), “the fight is far from over.”
Pimps and perps don’t tend to publicize their illegal trading of human beings, making it particularly difficult to collect data on commercial sexual exploitation. Their efforts to remain shrouded in secrecy notwithstanding, in 2011, 40 Department of Justice-led task forces reported over 900 investigations that involved more than 1,350 individuals in cases suspected of human trafficking. See www.victimsofcrime.org/library/crime-information-and-statistics/human-trafficking
It was almost 11 years ago (in June 2003), that the FBI and the Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) joined the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to launch the Innocence Lost National Initiative (ILNI). ILNL is the medium through which Operation Cross Country is carried out, a three-day nationwide enforcement action that inJuly 2013, according to the DOJ’s House Committee on Foreign Affairs, recovered105 commercially sexually exploited children and arrested150 pimps, madams, and their associates. It was the 7th such search, bringing the total number of children rescued by ILNI task forces to date to 2,800 children – and the total number of convictions for those who enslaved them to 1,400. See www.justice.gov/iso/opa/ola/witness/11-04-13-doj-statement-for-the-record-on-regional-perspectives-in-the-global-fig.201312161.pdf
According to Walkfree.org, over 29 million people are enslaved around the world today. They are in foreign lands and in our backyards – and if we are to save them, we must learn to see them. According the U.S. Department of State, there are recognizable indicators that someone might be a victim, including:
- Living with employer
- Poor living conditions
- Multiple people in cramped space
- Inability to speak to individual alone
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- Employer is holding identity documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- Submissive or fearful
- Unpaid or paid very little
- Under 18 and in prostitution
If you think you know someone who is being victimized or if you have a tip regarding a human trafficking enterprise, you can help, but do so safely so as not to compound human tragedy. There are multiple federal hotlines, including the following:
- The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual, anti-trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888.
- The U.S. Department of Justice’s dedicated human trafficking toll-free complaint line at 1-888-428-7581 (weekdays 9 AM – 5 PM EST).
- The FBI’s electronic Cyber Tip Line or 1-800-843-5678.
- US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year at 802-872-6199.
- Report a tip at www.ice.gov/tips.
Evil will not be destroyed overnight, but it will be destroyed. We have to continue the fight “until,” to quote Dr. King, justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”