We were talking about compassion. Specifically we were talking about people who devoted their lives to compassionate causes. Facilitating the conversation, my intern and I encouraged the women to think of people and organizations that worked thankless jobs in the spirit of helping others. The women were then tasked with writing a letter of encouragement and appreciation to show their thanks.
Trying to get ideas flowing, I briefly talked about an organization close to my heart. This organization’s mission is to bring awareness to, and inevitably end, modern day slavery by mobilizing ordinary, common-folk freedom fighters. At the mention of the word slavery a women questioned, “Slavery still exists?”
“Yes.” I replied plainly.
The woman needed more of an explanation, so I commented on bonded labor and forced labor. I talked about human trafficking. Some of the women acknowledged they had seen movies about women and children being stolen away from their families in other countries. Countries far away from here. At that, I felt compelled to bring the message closer to home and my pulse quickened at the thought of revealing a sad truth.
As I sat alongside the women, who in their honest desire to live survived years of trauma, and I talked about the clouded yet persistent slavery that perpetuates every day in this country. A cancer bolstered by the boyfriends who sell their girlfriends for a couple ounces, by the dealers who keep their pockets full by holding threats over their “employees’” heads and by creating unpayable debts, and by people who buy sex for entertainment. These were familiar realities for many of the women. They represented various ages and backgrounds but all the women had one thing in common- they battled addictions and struggled against the shackles that followed.
The women digested the information. Some women verbalized their thoughts and some kept quiet. I turned my gaze slightly and looked into the eyes of a woman I knew had not only been a slave to her addiction but also a slave to men who’d take her body in exchange for taste of the drug she’d given herself to. I wondered what she was thinking and though she didn’t divulge much, she responded by simply saying, “It’s true.”
The women slowly made decisions about who to write their letters to. They wrote for several minutes, deep in thought. The woman, who understood bondage intimately, handed me her letter and left without saying anything more. I looked at the envelope; it had been addressed to the freedom fighters. I swallowed and felt a knot it my throat. She was free. She is free.
Slavery is the 2nd largest global organized crime, generating $150.2 Billion per year.
Nearly 1 in 5 victims of slavery is a child. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the US is 12 - 14 years old.
There are an estimated 60,100 people trapped in slavery in the United States right now.
In 2013, the National Human trafficking Hotline received reports of human trafficking in all 50 states and DC.
February 27th is Shine a Light on Slavery Day. Join the thousands of freedom fighters worldwide who will wear a red “X” on their hand in solidarity with the people who are still enslaved and the work that’s being done to free them.