Thursday, March 29, 2012

Human Trafficking in the Headlines

Have you noticed? Human trafficking has been increasingly covered in the news lately. Many Americans are unaware that human beings are bought and sold, or “trafficked,” in every state of the Union. This crime occurs in the shadows - behind closed hotel room doors, in neighbor-hood homes, over the Internet. So, it’s significant that the fastest growing criminal industry in the world is gaining more attention in the mainstream media.

Several weeks ago, I watched the America’s Most Wanted two-hour special on domestic sex trafficking. It was riveting. Survivors bravely told their stories of being kidnapped, coerced, drugged, and abused in a life of sexual slavery. While it was difficult to absorb the harsh reality of what these women endured, it was awe-inspiring to see them emerge courageously determined in their efforts to bring their traffickers to justice and to start their own anti-trafficking advocacy efforts. As a result of the show, two of the traffickers mentioned in the episode were caught within the week.

Another story appeared recently on CNN, highlighting the problem of sex trafficking at truck stops in North Carolina. Read the story, and watch the compelling video.

Then came two recent stories that truly "hit home." First, in mid-February a couple was arrested here on Boston's North Shore for running a prostitution operation. The scenario is suggestive of a typical trafficking situation. The woman was brought from Mexico through an established prostitution ring with ties to New York and Central America. She was then taken to the Boston area to service 70 johns for the week. At the time of the bust, the woman was found with no money while her possible traffickers possessed $770 in cash. Perhaps the most encouraging line of the entire article was the closing sentence: “…it was not known whether the Mexican woman had been forced into prostitution, but he (Lieutenant Christopher Kelly) added the investigation is continuing.” Police are becoming more aware that all too often “prostitutes” are victims not criminals, and that is huge progress in the fight against human trafficking. Lynn police break up prostitution operation

Most recently, just last week there was yet another local incident, which brought significant charges of "trafficking in persons for sexual servitude" against 4 people in East Boston and Chelsea. The individuals are accused of operating a "sophisticated human trafficking operation," according to Attorney General Martha Coakley, in which 12-14 women were forced to live in "deplorable" conditions and were sold up to 15 times a day for sex. The arrests were made after a month-long investigation by the attorney general's office, federal agents, State police, as well as the Boston, Lynn, and Chelsea police departments. The Boston Globe article quotes Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston: "Human trafficking occurs every day, even in New England." Four arrested on charges of running human trafficking operation

So, do stories like these leave you feeling disheartened and wishing you could just forget such evil exists in the world? Yeah, I get it. I feel that, too, sometimes. Absolutely, these stories can overwhelm and dishearten us if we let them, but I have a different take. I think these stories embolden those of us privileged to be a part of Amirah; they underscore the absolute necessity of Amirah’s mission to restore women exploited by human trafficking in the Greater Boston area. Currently, there are no safehomes dedicated to long-term, residential aftercare of trafficking survivors in Boston, one of the top ten cities for trafficking in the U.S. The need is great; the challenges are great, yet I am encouraged and hopeful knowing that Amirah staff are working tirelessly to create a safe environment for survivors to be healed, empowered, and restored.

Will you join us? Spread the word about Amirah! Tweet about us, like us on Facebook, and partner with us in the fight against modern-day slavery!


  1. Thank you, Jodi. This is a great update and reminder--

    Nancy Mering

    1. Thank you, Nancy. I certainly need these reminders. While local stories of trafficking in our very own communities still seem to shock me initially, I am so glad the media coverage and general public awareness is growing. These women and girls need us to know and to act on their behalf in whatever way we can within our own spheres of influence. We all can make a difference somehow.