By Halie Wingo
Most people today think that slavery is a thing of the past, but do not realize that there are still slave workers around the country today. According to f-4-c.org, 17,500 people are sold or kidnapped and forced into sex slavery and used for sexual exploitation or forced labor every year in the United States. The average human is sold for 100 dollars. Many are taken from Asia, Central and South America and Eastern Europe and brought to the United States. As one of the most serious human rights violations and a Level three felony, the rise in human trafficking is alarming people in communities around the state, including Whiteland and around the nation.
Tim Swarens of the Indy Star wrote a 10 part story on the exploitation of children involved in child trafficking. This piece had horrifying quotes from men arrested for human trafficking. According to Swarens’ description, one man described another human as “a piece of meat. A commodity to be consumed. Not a child. Not a life.”
Many of these young girls are found with scratches and bruises in homes and hotel rooms across the country. They can have several sexually transmitted diseases contracted from men purchasing sex from their “owners.” They can be used by 15 to 20 men a night, sometimes, as their “owners” pocket the money for themselves and keep these poor young girls hostage by threatening, beating and starving them.
Officer Zack Elliott, a police officer for the Bargersville Police Department, said that human trafficking is a crime that targets children.
“It is the sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes; it is compelling people to labor or provide services through force, fraud, or coercion, whether citizens, legal residents, or persons having entered the country illegally. It is also taking from a person his or her travel documents, passports and or visas, whether authentic or forged, to compel that person’s labor or services,” Elliott said.
According to the Indianapolis Recorder, during 2016 in Indiana, there were at least 178 known cases of human trafficking and it is still happening. In his time as a police officer, Elliott has spoken to people involved in human trafficking. Early in his career, he spoke to a male that entered the United States illegally with the aid of a “coyote”, someone who specializes in illegally transporting people across federal boarders.
Much of human trafficking starts online from people that may be posing as a teenager or someone close to a middle or high school age so that they can meet the person and take them. To make sure students stay safe, Elliott suggests being safe online and being aware of other people and their identity on and off the internet.
“BE SMART! Students are continually connected to social medial and using it correctly is essential. A large part of the recruiting effort is done electronically. Knowing what is real and what is fake is important, like getting a friend request from someone that looks like they would be fun to hang out with but none of your friends know them and you are not quite sure why you were sent the request. That would be a red flag that something might not be quite right,” Elliot said.
The reason most people are involved in human trafficking is for money, according to Elliott. Unfortunately, selling other humans is a big business.
“Human trafficking is becoming one of the largest money making opportunities for criminals. According to Department of Justice in 2014, human trafficking generated $150.2 billion worldwide,” Elliott said.
In a human trafficking report from 2016, it stated that human trafficking is a violent, multi-billion dollar international, national and local criminal enterprise in Indiana and the Midwest, where 178 trafficked youth were identified, with victims first trafficked as young as seven years old.
Human trafficking is becoming an issue in many parts of the United States. The terrifying reality of the situation is that everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings and who they are talking to online and offline. There are many resources to contact if you suspect something is happening and there is an online record of sex offenders to reference if you need to know if someone is dangerous.
Anyone can report human trafficking to 1-888-373-7888 (TTY:711) or send a text to 233733.