"Sexual Slavery - an Indiana Phenomenon, too"
Let me be clear: it’s great that the Courier-Journal is talking about the fact that trafficking is happening in Indiana. I’d just like us to get to a place where this is no longer a surprise.
When you say the word “trafficking,” lots of people think it’s an overseas kind of a thing. A traveling-across-national-borders kind of a thing. A dramatic kidnapping-and-drugging thing like in that (exciting to watch, but highly inaccurate) movie, Taken.
In other words, we think trafficking is a thing that only happens to other people.
I get it. Just like we all want to think that getting cancer or being struck by lightning are things that only happen to other people, we assume that trafficking only happens to other people. No one wants to think that trafficking happens right here in our own US of A, to people who are citizens of these here United States. That would mean that we’re not as strong a society as we think we are. That would mean that there’s risk for our own people right here at home.
But you know what? It does happen here.
And you know what else? The fact that we’re so loath to think it happens here is part of what makes it go unnoticed here. If you don’t think it could be happening in your neighborhood, you’re not looking for the signs in your neighborhood, so it stays hidden in your neighborhood. It’s a vicious spiral.
Don’t think you’re alone in this, though. Lots of people don’t think it could happen here. So much so, that when the TVPA (Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, or Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act) was initially enacted in 2000, it contained no protections for American victims of trafficking. Zip. Zilch. Nada. That part was added years later, and even then, there was no money appropriated for them. It was so unbelievable to us that Americans could be victimized by trafficking, that that attitude became enshrined in law.
And while we’re at it, lots of people think that sex trafficking only happens to women and girls. It doesn’t. It happens to people all over the spectrum of sexual and gender identity. Male, female, transgender, cis, hetero, LGBTQQIA – you name it. It’s not about identity or sexuality. It’s about power and vulnerability. And money.
So what can we do about it?
Start noticing. Start recognizing that words like “pimp,” “forced prostitution,” and “underage prostitution” are just other words for trafficking. (Yes, even when “pimp” is used in a song. Listen to those lyrics.) Start recognizing that power dynamics aren't black and white, and a situation that seemed innocent at first (like that mall security guard who’s really nice to the teenage girls) doesn't always stay that way.
Also, look out for opportunities to get info. One good opportunity to learn, talk to people, and get info about trafficking is coming up in the form of the DC Stop Modern Slavery Walkfest on Saturday, October 4th. Come walk with us, get your friends to sponsor our team, stop by the resource tables, and hear some great speakers (including our own Tina Frundt).
Most of all, stop being surprised. Stop letting your friends and family be surprised. Know that it can and does happen here. This isn't just a thing that happens in the movies, and it’s definitely not a thing that only happens to other people. And the more people who know what to look for, the more people we’re able to help.
This really shouldn't be surprising anymore, so let’s make it known.
Director of Operations