Not For $ale!

Story by Aaron Grice. Photo by Marcel Gallion. 

FNN Tech Prep Bureau: What if you had this boyfriend and he meant the world to you. You know everything about him. You guys talk all the time, and there's no one you'd rather be with. He tells you that you’re beautiful and takes you out all the time...being as romantic as cupid himself. What if that guy told you that he needed you to get him some money so his grandmother could stay on life support and that he needed it fast. What if he asked you to do something for money you wouldn’t ever think of. But because you love him, you do it. You bring him the money and watch as he spends it on clothes and shoes and you. You ask about his grandmother and he just makes up some excuse like ‘’Oh, my mom just paid them off. It's all taken care of.’’ 

About a week later he says he got into some trouble and he needs more money quick. So he asks you do that thing you did before and, again, because you love him, you do it. You bring him the money. But it's not as much as before. So in anger, he hits you and calls you names. Then right after, he apologizes and caresses your cheek saying how sorry he is and how he didn’t know what came over him. He even takes you out to dinner with a stack of cash you never gave him. You wonder but you don’t ask because you don’t want him to get angry like before. After dinner he, takes you through this alley saying it is a short cut to the train station. Huge muscle guys show up and the love of your life starts talking to them. They open a brief case full of money and give it to him. Then he walks away leaving you with the guys who begin walking toward you. You don’t know what’s going on so you stand there waiting for him to come back. You think, "maybe they’re just keeping me company until he comes back". But they grab you and place a bag over your head. You yell. They hit you upside your head and you fall into a daze...but you're still awake. They throw you in a car. You can hear the car drive off, maybe never to be seen again.  

This actually happens, more often than you think. It's called Human Trafficking.

What is Human Trafficking?
Where does human trafficking exist? How old are the victims typically? Do people die?

Human trafficking is the process of forcing someone, often a female but males as well, into prostitution and/or forcing someone into work (slavery). Human trafficking is not limited to one area or place—it happens throughout the world. Victims typically associated with human trafficking are usually about 10 and up. Some girls and/or boys, are actually born into a prostitution ring and raised to know just money, drugs and sex—which often leads to health problems and eventually death—not to mention the risk of catching STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases).

Many victims, are either runaways, kidnapped, helpless or tricked into believing that they would be showing up for a certain job or opportunity. The last one mentioned happens more often than you may think.  Example: “Hey, this is The Such and Such Modeling Agency. We’ve seen pictures on your resume and we want you to come and model for Vogue Magazine! Come to such and such address by such and such time and we’ll get started.” 

That is one of the top ways to get put into sex trafficking.  Unless you have information on the person or company contacting you,  you’d  be safer walking away. Because once you are forced into that prostitution ring, you are most likely never to be seen again unless you escape.

Did You Know?
There are estimated 27 million slaves in the world today. That's the highest record number of slaves in history. Trafficked children who grow up as slaves are much more likely to develop mental health issues, abuse substances, engage in prostitution as adults, and either commit or be victims of violent crimes later in life. 

Human trafficking is the SECOND largest criminal enterprise in the world—after smuggling and arms dealing. According to estimates, approximately 80%  involves sexual exploitation and 19% involves labor exploitation. Another estimate suggests that 13 million CHILDREN are enslaved around the world today, accounting for nearly half of the full number of trafficked victims in the world.

What Can You Do?
Human trafficking is very real and is still very prevalent. Be sure to watch out for yourself. Watch your surroundings and be sure to separate scams from true opportunities. If you ever feel like you can’t stay home because of abuse, negligence, stress or any other negative home situation, running away is never the answer. There are plenty of sources you can use to get help. Start with telling school teachers, counselors, principals and the police. Never trust a stranger.

For more information about this subject I interviewed Priya Dhanani, the director of a national organization called FAIR Girls:

Q: What is FAIR Girls?
A: Fair Girls is an national program that works with young women who have been sexually exploited. FAIR Girls helps young women with housing, food, shelter, court advocacy, building a resume and finding a job. Basically, helping to get them back on their feet.

Q: How do traffickers catch their victims?
A: Often, a male subject will trick the female into getting into a one way love relationship and/or a job like modeling and then forcing the girl into prostitution.

Q:How widespread is this crime?A: Worldwide. Its not just foreign. It's everywhere.

Q:What is the most common form of Human Trafficking?
A: It depends on the location. In DC, the most common form of human trafficking is sex trafficking.

Q: What age group is targeted most?
A: Ages 10 to 25.

Q: What are some of major challenges faced in the battle against Human Trafficking?
A: One of the most challenging things in human trafficking is pinpointing locations of high rate human trafficking or prostitution.

Q: Do many traffickers get convicted or do more get away?
A: More do get away with it, rather than being convicted, because it's always underground and the victims are the ones that visibly do most of the work to bring in the income.

Q: What can I, as well as my peers do to help, or prevent the exploitation of children and teens?A: Inform peers about the program FAIR Girls and just be aware of your surroundings. 

In my opinion, you should be careful who you trust. If you do get a boyfriend, date first, get to know him, his family, and stay in public areas especially if you don’t really know him yet. Never try to meet a guy on the internet or social media. Stay away from that.

Aaron Grice is a sophomore at Friendship Tech Prep.