Two weeks ago, the Associated Press carried a story about human trafficking in the fishing industry. Hundreds of men from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, were transported to and confined at the remote Indonesian Island of Benjina and forced to work as slaves. AP journalists interviewed 40 current and former slaves who reported being forced to work 20 to 22 hours a day, not having adequate food or clean drinking water, and being beaten and tortured.
Just last Friday, the AP reported that Indonesian officials visited the island and freed the men. The next challenge for these men is to rebuild their lives.
How could this happen? Take a look at Lisa Kristine’s photo display and listen to her presentation on TED.com about modern day slavery. See the faces of some of the estimated 27 million men, women and children who work as slaves. Some work deep underground in mines, others dye silk or dig for gold or work in brothels.
These people become enslaved in a variety of ways. Some are duped into thinking they are being taken to a place where they will have a good job and a better life. Others are kidnapped or sold by relatives. In some countries, the inability to pay a debt leads to slavery. Many have known no other life.
Slavery is a lucrative business. Slaves are reusable, not a commodity that can be sold just once. As long as he lives, a slave produces for his owner, but in the end, a slave is expendable.
Human Trafficking Ohio
This misery isn’t confined to overseas. Two months ago, a couple was arrested in Powell, Ohio, for maintaining a prostitution business at three massage parlors. Police freed seven women, who had been forced to work as prostitutes. They spoke little to no English. Two are believed to have been living at one of the massage parlors.
Read the story of Jennifer Kempton in this month’s edition of (614) Magazine. Suffering from a drug addiction and abusive past, Jennifer just wanted to be loved and thought she found it in a man named Salem. He seemed to fill her needs.
Salem’s façade of affection was replaced by beatings and manipulation. Jennifer was forced to work the streets on the west side of Columbus. It was an ugly and brutal life, but what options do an addict have? Salem’s name was tattooed—Jennifer calls it being branded—on her neck. After Salem used her up, Jennifer was sold to drug gangs, who branded her with their insignia.
After five years of beatings and rapes, Jennifer broke free and got clean. Still, she bore the marks from the past. With encouragement and help from an anti-trafficking advocate, Jennifer had her brands covered by a tattoo artist.
Jennifer went on to found Survivor’s Ink, a non-profit devoted to covering the bondage tattoos of women who have escaped. Her mission is to raise awareness about trafficking, help victims heal and move on, and raise money so that other women who have escaped can have their signs of bondage covered.
Want to know more? Look at Ohio’s Human Trafficking Task Force web site.
Each year a thousand kids in Ohio are tricked into and trapped in the sex trade. And just in case you think nice girls from nice families aren’t at risk, read about Teresa Flores¸ a “nice girl” from a “nice home” who was trapped in the sex trade for years as a teenager.
What can you do? Be alert to the signs of trafficking:
- Sleeping bags/cots at a business where workers are transported in a group
- Scripted, rehearsed answers to casual questions
- Workers are young and fearful or overly submissive
- Not being allowed to go into public alone or to speak for oneself
- The look of fear, anxiety or depression; being submissive, tense
- Signs of being malnourished, physical abuse
A couple AP reporters made the difference between slavery and freedom for the Myanmar slaves. Keep your eyes open. You might have the opportunity to make a difference for someone being trafficked.
Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com
To subscribe to this blog, use the subscribe box at http://www.considerthisbyjd.com.