When I was a little girl, my mom would always tell me to stay near her in public. She would point at a wall at Walmart plastered with pictures of missing kids and warn me that I’d end up like them if I wandered too far. In kindergarten, a little girl from my grade was picked up by a stranger after school and kidnapped. Our school started to keep a closer eye on the kids and told us not to accept rides from strangers. I remember feeling devastated when I heard that Elizabeth Smart had been kidnapped and even though everyone presumed that she was probably dead, I never gave up faith that they would find her. In high school, I walked home every day after school. One day, a car full of four men started to follow me. They followed me in their car at a pace too slow to be a coincidence. My heart was racing and I ran to catch up with a guy from school who had a reputation for getting into fights, but was one of my friends. I explained to him what was happening and he looked at the car angrily as the car raced away. I’m sure they didn’t expect me, a typical high school girl who always wore glasses and a pair of worn out Converse, to be friends with the big kid at school who always challenged people to fights at the nearby park. I was extremely grateful to him that day but that wasn’t the only instance in high school where something like that happened to me.
I left Wisconsin and found that human trafficking was common in other places too. When I was a missionary in Mexico City, I remember walking through a small street with houses on either side of that were nothing more than metal sheets stacked together. A drunk young woman plastered with make-up and in a revealing dress with high heels clung onto a man. After they passed us by, I asked my companion what was happening. She explained that she was a prostitute. She looked too young to be a prostitute. She looked way younger than me and I was only 19. Later, I met a young man living in one of the poorest parts of my area in Mexico, who became a prostitute in his youth to pay for the medical bills of his father. When I was transferred to California, I saw a group of young women dressed provocatively and who clearly didn’t speak English being put into a van. I remember feeling uneasy about the situation. I wanted to help, but I didn’t know how.
In every situation, I felt powerless to do anything. I desperately wanted to change what was happening. Now I’m in the position where I can. I now recognize the signs of human trafficking. I have the national human trafficking hotline’s number saved on my phone and called it last summer when I saw suspicious activity on a highway to Nevada. I am interning for a group called “Truckers Against Trafficking” and hope to someday create my own nonprofit. (More on that later!) I am constantly looking for more ways to help the cause. As a member of BYU’s Anti-Human Trafficking Club, I volunteered for BYU’s Annual Summit Against Human Trafficking. Hearing from the renowned speakers who are all working to make a difference was such an inspiration to me. I went last year too and each time has been a wonderful opportunity to learn about what one can do to help.
There are approximately 40 million victims of slavery globally and from data in 2002, the International Labor Organization estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year. (Every Child Counts, New Global estimate on Child Labour) Every victim is somebody’s daughter or son. While I personally have never been a victim of human trafficking, I am an older sister to 5 girls and can’t imagine how I’d feel if anything were to happen to any of them!
We all can do something to help this enormous problem. Start by seeing how many slaves work for you at http://slaveryfootprint.org/ Save the national human trafficking hotline’s number on your phone. Learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking. Little things can make a huge difference!
Thanks for reading and please contact me with any suggestions, feedback, or questions! Have a great weekend!
"You may turn the other way but you can never say again that you did not know." -William Wilberforce
To get help or to report a tip, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888)
For more information, check out polaris.com