Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do You Know Where Your Daughter Is?

The topic of the day is human trafficking.  My morbid fascination with it began a few years ago when a particularly heinous case was featured on America's Most Wanted.  The hotbeds which immediately come to mind are Eastern Europe, Asia, Central and South America.  The deployable military personnel among us have doubtless attended briefings about it.  Most of us have probably spared a glance at a seedy-looking strip club or "massage parlor" and wondered whether it was full of girls who barely speak English trying to earn back their passports.  The Secret Service's party plans in Colombia brought the subject briefly to the forefront of our minds.   But usually we return to our little domestic bubbles of peace, content that it doesn't happen to educated middle-class American families.  We react to the sad stories of Ukrainian girls who were tricked into a life of sex slavery in America with the same condescending pity usually reserved for elderly victims of Nigerian email scams.  They should have known better.  They should have been more careful.

Unfortunately, human trafficking is by no means a fate reserved for foreign women.  Domestic victims aren't always delinquents or runaways.  Sometimes traffickers hunting in American suburbia use the same tactics as in other countries, promises of a glamorous job opportunity as models or professional make-up artists.  Sometimes they build more elaborate ruses, targeting specific girls over a period of time.  Sometimes they resort to old-fashioned snatch-and-grab kidnapping.  The specific examples below are from the series MSNBC Undercover: Sex Slaves.

1)     In 1981, the popular boy in class offers Theresa, the new girl, a ride home from school.  Instead he takes her elsewhere and rapes her.  She is too ashamed to admit the rape to her strict religious and socially-affluent parents.  Unfortunately, the rape itself had been a set-up; the boy's two older cousins had been in the closet taking damaging photographs.  In an effort to "earn the pictures back," Theresa finds herself being pimped out of her own house at night for almost two years.  The boys threatened to harm her family if she ever sought help.  When she was finally discovered, they stole and shot the family dog as a reminder to keep silent.  She never pressed charges.

2)     In 2005 two young girls in Toledo, Ohio, were kidnapped by a local pimp while walking down the sidewalk and ended up prostituted at a truck stop.  The police wrote off the incident as a case of runaways, and considered later information that one of the girls was being held at an address against her will a "low priority."  After waiting for a half hour, the frantic father took matters into his own hands and was beaten by the pimp for twenty minutes and nearly to death before police arrived, despite numerous 911 calls by neighbors.  While recovering from the beating, the father was charged with breaking and entering the pimp's home.  The charges were later thrown out.

3)     In 2006, sixteen-year-old Shauna was trafficked from school by a classmate who posed as her best friend for months.  Under pretense of spending a weekend together (and with the reluctant permission of her parents), she was taken to the friend's father's house, only four blocks from Shauna's family home.  When she asked for a drink, she was given a glass of water laced with GHB.  Shauna was imprisoned, sold on the Internet and brutally raped for four days before the tireless efforts of her family resulted in her rescue.  While the police were entangled in policy, Shauna's family was posting flyers, contacting advocates who hounded the traffickers by phone, and finally Shauna's fifteen-year-old brother helped her escape from the backseat of a car by holding the driver at knifepoint.   She was resuscitated twice while being airlifted to the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest as a result of the cocktail of cocaine, meth, ecstasy and GHB used to sedate her.

The moral of the story is that it could be your kids.  It could be your neighbor's kids.  What's a concerned parent to do short of ordering background checks on all new friends and acquaintances?  As a prospective mother and as someone who already tries to live in "the orange zone," I've started trying to construct something like an official plan of action.  The only reason Shauna's mother knew her daughter was in trouble was because Shauna was somehow able to make a brief phone call begging for help.  In another case, the victim was actually required by her pimp to call home every week under pretense of traveling for work; for years her family was none the wiser.  Should we have a family "code phrase" to be used if under duress?

The second moral of the story is that the police can't always be there for you.  A five-second Google search turned up instances of these kind of crimes in our home county, as well as in the home counties of many of our friends.  Are you willing to hold a pimp at knifepoint for your kids?  You better hope to God you are.


  1. Human Trafficking has always been a hot button issue with me. I wouldn't hold someone at knife point for a kid. I would probably just kill him and be done with it.

  2. One of the point you should add to you #2 story is that the Pimp and his adult female accomplices got ONLY 8 years. America does NOT care about our children. We assume it won't happen to our own children and don't care if it happens to someone else's otherwise, why do we have the short sentences for this crime or other pedophilia crimes. WE Must demand our legislators change the laws. ONE offense for predatory crimes and it LIFE in prison.

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