The Silent Epidemic? – #2

As a resident of Saint Albans, I am not oblivious to the fight against drug abuse. Last year, the local police launched a street crimes unit, a division solely dedicated to cleaning up the town’s drug scene. Advocacy against legal and illegal drug use is everywhere; schools advocate by holding meetings, putting up posters, having pamphlets in the nurse’s office, incorporating it into their health curriculums, etc. It’s safe to say, while they don’t all take heed of it, most Americans know, to an extent, the dangers of illegal and legal drug use.

There is, however, a type of trafficking more severe than that of drugs; one which has significantly more money, people, and victims involved. This illegal industry sells something more precious than cocaine, heroin, or any other illegal drug on the market: human lives. And unlike drug trafficking, it does not get nearly the amount of public awareness that it deserves.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world; its roots spread all throughout the U.S, including Vermont. People, often young girls, are taken from their homes and sold as slaves, forced into labor and/or sex. Not all acts of human trafficking are large scale. In small, African countries such as Sierra Leone, it is common for families to sell their daughters when they’re no older than fourteen. Larger scale human trafficking can be found in countries such as Chine, whose imbalanced ratio of men to women leads many males to seek wives though sex trafficking. Recently, Vermont has experienced its own spike in activity, with several reports of attempted kidnappings just within the last month. It amazes me that such a widespread issue, arguably the biggest illegal industry in the world, receives so little coverage from the mainstream media. This leads to the majority of Americans being tragically uninformed, ignorant of the unpronounced issue surrounding them, one which grows worse each day. I, too, am guilty of this, full of many unanswered questions. Advocacy and awareness are important; an issue must be known before it can be fixed. Where is the local police unit solely dedicated to human trafficking? Where are the victims stories being told?

I’m inspired to delve into this issue after Vermont’s current kidnappings: one victim being someone I know. The following are questions to which I hope to get answers:

  • How many people are known victims of human trafficking in the U.S. annually?
  • How many people are known victims of human trafficking worldwide annually?
  • Is it hard to find reliable statistics?
  • How much money does human trafficking make worldwide, annually?
  • What is the likelihood of a kidnapped child being sold into human trafficking in the U.S?
  • What is the rise of human trafficking in the U.S. from one hundred years ago?
  • How many women in ratio to men are victims of human trafficking?
  • How much does one person “cost” on average in the industry?
  • Are there certain variables (age, size, gender, race, virginity, etc.) which determine the “value” of a victim?
  • How are most victims obtained in the human trafficking industry?
  • What countries are most affected by this issue?
  • Are there places where human trafficking is legal?
  • What has the U.S. government’s efforts been in combating human trafficking in this country?
  • Why is there such a lack of advocacy and awareness in either the mainstream media or schools?
Elizabeth Pietras

9 Responses to “The Silent Epidemic? – #2

  • Elizabeth,

    Your writing skills make this entry, like your last one, a pleasure to read. I especially like the way you pivot from the drug issue to the one that becomes the focus of this entry.

    I admit that I, too, am largely oblivious to the problem of human trafficking, though I have heard elsewhere that it is indeed something that merits more attention. I would never have guessed that it’s happening here in Vermont, and I am sorry to hear that you know one of the victims.

    I think your questions will provide a strong springboard to launch into a further investigation of this topic, should you decide to pursue it. Your last question is particularly powerful: “Why is there such a lack of advocacy and awareness in either the mainstream media or schools?” If you find the answer to that one, let me know. I’m also curious to know what types of trafficking are most prominent in our state.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Hey Bob

      Thank you so much for your positive feedback. I definitely will keep my readers posted on my latest findings; my list of questions can’t wait to get into the research phase.
      Two children have gone missing in my area within the past 2 weeks, and although they’ve been found and returned safely to their homes, the initial fear lingers, as I’ve seen in my family, friends, and neighbors.

      – Elizabeth

  • I like how you wrote a lot of questions about human trafficking. Asking questions is important for learning about a new topic, because it establishes a starting point. It seems like you know a fair amount about human trafficking. Since human trafficking is such a big issue, and because you believe that the news isn’t covering it enough, what do you think is a good way to spread information? When you wrote, “an issue must be known before it can be fixed,” it spoke to me because there are many big issues, like sexual harassment in the workplace, that people argue about, but there are also issues, like human trafficking, that are talked about less. Because human trafficking is commonplace in some regions, like Sierra Leone, I wonder, what are some ways to address the problems there?

  • Jeanie Phillips
    2 years ago

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Your opening really hooked me in! I remember my surprise when I found out that slavery was still alive and well in this country. I saw a presentation by End Slavery Now (http://www.endslaverynow.org) and was shocked that this travesty still existed in our world and in our country. The questions you ask are excellent, and many of them can be researched and answered, but your last question is a kicker! It reminds me of a lens I use to examine issues for equity and social justice: whose story is being told? Whose story isn’t being told? What privilege is the story protecting? What would it look like to tell stories from other perspectives?

    What (or who) does our silence on human trafficking protect? What would it look like to tell stories of human trafficking in Vermont? Would sharing those local stories decrease our apathy and increase our empathy? I believe there is power in story, and your writing certainly demonstrates that you have a powerful storytelling voice.

    Best,
    Jeanie

  • Elizabeth,
    This is a very powerful message, I personally know next to nothing about this so to read what you have written it was amazing and eye opening. Your writing was beautiful and you brought your point across perfectly so that I could understand and reflect. I knew about other countries but I’m curious about our country, it seems so mysterious that its just not talked about so I’ve never worried about it. I hope you continue to pursue this topic.
    Anna

  • Mary Nagy-Benson
    2 years ago

    Elizabeth,
    Thank you for writing about this; it has opened my eyes to this current issue. I did not know that this was happening in Vermont. I think your questions are very focussed and relevant, I wonder some of the same things. I appreciate the background information you wrote about this, as I do not know as much as I should about this topic. Keep up the good work!

    Mary

  • Liz,

    It’s only recently that I’ve started to notice the human trafficking problem in Vermont, too, especially in the Burlington-Colchester area. Some of our teachers at BFA have told me to be careful, and it’s tragic that a child of any age needs to be made aware of the fact that kidnapping is a very real problem, though it seems like such a far-fetched idea. You raise good points in your questions, especially when you ask, “What is the likelihood of a kidnapped child being sold into human trafficking in the U.S?” Children need to know about the bad things that can happen, as much as we may want to spare them from having to think about them, in order to keep them safe. Schools need to take more action in educating both children and parents about this issue, and if you decide to pursue this topic in your project, you’d be on a similar path towards educating the community.

  • Jeanie Phillips
    2 years ago

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Your opening really hooked me! I remember being shocked when I first learned about modern slavery. It was at a presentation given by Free The Slaves (www.freetheslaves.net) and I was startled to realize that what I had learned in school, namely that slavery was over, was completely false. It made me wonder what else I believed that wasn’t true. Now I try to use an equity lens to examine “truths.” I ask, whose story is being told? Whose story ISN’T being told? What privilege does the told story protect? What would it look like to tell the story from a different perspective? I wonder what it would look like to apply this lens to human trafficking.

    You ask great questions, and many of them can be answered. Your last one is a challenge that will be harder to sort out. I’m looking forward to seeing how you put your powerful storytelling/writing abilities to this work!

    best,
    Jeanie

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