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Slavery still going strong in the world, and U.S. tops the list

By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic

The facts are alarming—more than 60,000 people currently are living in slavery in the United States, the majority of whom are women and girls.            

Half of those are minors.

Those facts should leave any parent desperately analyzing what they can do to better protect their children, because once they are trafficked, a very small percentage are rescued.

Cimarron resident Marca Deimund was left equally astounded after a presentation she heard back in 2011.

“Trafficking gangs were going into Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and bringing people down to Texas to be sold,” she told an audience at the Dodge City Public Library Nov. 14.

“This is the center of the United States! It’s not supposed to happen here! The more I learned about it, the more I learned it happens everywhere.”

She shared the vast amount of knowledge she’s learned on the subject since that initial presentation in a program entitled “Human Trafficking: Closer Than You Think,” cosponsored by the Dodge City Public Library and West Hopewell Community FCE.

“There’s actually a loop for human trafficking in the Midwest that starts in Chicago and goes down to St. Louis, comes over to Kansas City, Wichita, Dallas, Houston, and then back up again where these traffickers move the children around and around to different cities,” she said. “I-70 and I-35 are heavily used in moving trafficking victims. Kansas provides the perfect hub for traffickers.”

There are two primary types of human trafficking: sex and labor. Sex trafficking includes the recruitment and harboring of a person for the purpose of providing commercial sexual acts.

“The average age of a sex trafficking victim is 12 to 14 years old,” Deimund said.

She shocked the audience when she noted that “in one case, a six-month-old infant was rescued from sex traffickers.

“The average life span of someone being trafficked is seven years.” In other words, if recruited at 13, the victim will likely be dead by 20, either murdered, or dead from drugs or suicide, Deimund said.

“The United States is the number one destination for a ‘sex vacation,’” she said. “Atlanta is the number one destination for child sex tourism in the United States.” Along the highway you will often see signs for massage parlors. Many include prostitution.

The other kind human of trafficking is labor trafficking, in which a person is forced—through physical intimidation, fraud, or coercion—to perform physical labor.

This includes, in many countries, serving as soldiers or slaves. 

Several years ago a young man living in southwest Kansas told the then-Register that at 16, he was snatched from his family by the Burmese military to serve as a “porter,” which, in Burmese terms, is just a breath away from a death sentence.

“If you work late at night, or if you are traveling at night, they will take you,” he said. “When you work as a porter, you have to do everything they tell you. You are like an animal. Everything they say, you have to do whether you like it or not.”

   The military makes a practice of kidnapping mostly male villagers, including children, to carry their packs across roads laden with land mines and to act as shields when coming across rebel fighters -- often times their own people. 

“Snatching” a young child from a grocery store or parking lot, for example, occurs right here in the United States. And some areas are far more at risk than others. In places such as Garden City and Dodge City, she said people have been urged to watch their youngsters every second while in a public setting.

“Every 30 seconds someone becomes a human trafficking victim,” Deimund said.                     

Most of these sad journeys begin with a conversation at a vulnerable moment.

“That’s all it takes to become a victim of human trafficking. Teenagers are at great risk because of the internet: Facebook, Instagram, Snap chat, etc…. It’s easy to pretend you are a 17-year-old boy when you are a 50-year-old balding sexual predator or sex trafficking recruiter or a grandmother looking to add girls to your gang’s inventory.

“Sexting on web cams or cameras where young girls or boys are ‘coaxed’ into posing for pictures makes them vulnerable to being blackmailed into becoming a sex trafficking victim. It’s hard for kids to comprehend how dangerous the world is. They are very knowledgeable about computers and the internet, but not at all about other people who are online.

“They think they are smarter than the traffickers. They are not.”

One girl she spoke of was attending high school and living with her parents, who had no idea that their daughter was being forced into prostitution in her off hours.

 Human trafficking—labor or sex—can happen at truck stops, hotels, at restaurants, bars, farms, and beef packing houses, and even nail salons.

Most prostitutes, Deimund said, are victims of trafficking and do not want to be living that lifestyle.

While 83 percent of trafficking victims in the United States are U.S. citizens, others are coerced from overseas.

“After a natural disaster, traffickers will approach families and tell them that they will bring their child to the United States and give them shelter and education,” Deimund said.

Other families are simply fighting extreme poverty when someone offers an opportunity to help one of their children.

“Some families are desperate enough to do that. Poverty and a lack of education are huge detriments.”

In September, a Wichita man was arrested on a count of human trafficking. Another Wichita man recently was given a 187-month prison sentence for sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl. In August, a Garden City man was arrested on trafficking charges.

Deimund told those gathered that if you come across someone you think is a trafficking victim, don’t be tempted to try to rescue her or him.

“Do not try to intervene. Remember, one victim may be ‘sold’ several times a night.” Over time, she may be bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars. The trafficker will not let them go quietly.

Instead, contact 911 immediately, relating exactly what you saw or experienced, or you can call the National Human Exploitation Hotline, 1-888-373-7888. 

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