“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
When Ronald Reagan said those words he was talking about fighting poverty in the United States. They are words that have stuck with me since I first read the speech in High School. They even started or ended many of the criminal justice and sociology papers I wrote for my degree. I think the key part comes in at the end, that we justified our moment here and that we did all that could be done. I guess it goes along with that idea that is better to die for something than live for nothing. Our world currently is experiencing true problems all over. There are a thousand causes one could rally behind. There are a thousand ways a person could work to make this world a much better place. The only thing in my head though, is the 30 million people who cannot choose what their life should and will mean. I can’t really imagine what it would be like to live the lives they lead. I sometimes try and I want to believe that in that situation I would find a way to break out of it or at the very last keep my hope and survive it.
In reality, I know that would likely not be the case. Traffickers are the worst of the worst. They excel at preying on psychological weaknesses not only to recruit victims but to keep victims absolutely terrified, broken, and hopeless. In this video linked just below, Shared Hope International kind of gives you a crash course in human trafficking. At right around the 2:50 mark a sex trafficker named “Joel” gives an interview. He pops up again later in the video. I have not been able to get his voice, his smile, or his words out of my head for over a week. Even if I could I am not sure I would because “Joel” will drive my passion.
I watched that video as part of my training for shared hope. “Joel” will now be a constant reminder of the soulless husk traffickers are. In the United States it is estimated there are 2-300,000 trafficked minors. That is a lot of zeros. When you expose yourself to this field at a constant rate you begin burning out. You begin seeing the numbers as just a statistic. When I first began researching trafficking I ended up burning out and distancing myself from it because it was too much to dwell on. Every single one of those numbers, matter. Where there are humans capable of great evil there are a dozen more capable of great good, compassion, and love.
Trafficking is a complex crime. It is hard to detect, hard to prosecute, and near impossible to prevent. That does not let us off the hook though, we must do all that can be done. Where trafficking had its great boom in the 1990s, the anti-trafficking movement and the laws that follow in its wake are two decades behind. There are still states in the US and countries in the western world that have no laws for trafficking. Luckily in the US there are federal laws to prosecute them under and slowly but surely groups like shared hope and the Polaris project are getting the state laws updated. Internationally, the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime is pressuring countries to establish trafficking laws and helping them to define what trafficking is (which sounds weird but there is a huge debate internationally as to what should constitute a trafficked human). I am pleased that for all our short comings that the United States makes a truly international effort to curb trafficking. The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report (known as Tips) ranks every country on a scale of 1-3. The countries who do near nothing to stop trafficking or do not do enough end up receiving no non humanitarian aid from the United States and also will have the United States vote no on any loans from the world bank. The system has proven to be effective in a few countries. Sadly, allegations of corruption and bias plague the report every year. Still.. It is something.
So what can the average person do? Get involved and get educated. The best way to curb trafficking is awareness. Most people don’t even really know what trafficking is (this sort of goes with that argument I mentioned above). Most people have the impression that trafficked victims must be moved from place to place. Although that is often the case, trafficking does not require moving the victim. Trafficking is really best defined as slavery, which has become a new push for the Anti-trafficking movement where many charities and NGOs are adopting the word slave or modern slavery to replace trafficking. I encourage you to remember every time you hear the drastically large number concerning victims in the US or abroad that each one of those numbers matter. Each one is a child, a mother, a father, a brother, or sister to someone. Remember people like “Joel” are the ones taking these children and delivering them to even worse humans. Remember the struggle these people must have and lives completely void of hope. We are their hope. We are their last best hope.