“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves” (Harriet Tubman).
At the age of 12, Harriet Tubman had her first encounter with injustice and took a stance against it. Most know her from her famous work with the Underground Railroad, but I recall her as one of the first women, to make an impact on the culture of innocent American citizens.
At that young age, Tubman witnessed an overseer furious with a fugitive slave. The man, only seeking freedom, was caught near the Maryland plantation Tubman lived on. The overseer viciously threw an iron weight at the head of the man. Without thought or hesitation, Tubman ran between the two and took the hit.
Blood ran from her head. She had nowhere to go, lay, or clean her wounds. But that didn’t matter. She knew that no man, woman, or child deserved to be beaten, enslaved, or trapped.
She was determined to change the lives of the slaves.
Tubman became one of the greatest “Conductors” on the railroad because of her desperate desire for justice. Due to people like Harriet, Lincoln, and others, freedom was granted to those innocent men, women, and children.
But in 2019, slavery still exists.
Today, we’re witnessing a prominent underground crime that has taken root in every county and city in the United States of America. Human trafficking has stolen and enslaved more innocent women, men, boys, and girls than we can ever imagine.
Human trafficking is often thought of as a “kidnapping,” but it’s more than that. When victims are enslaved in sexual slavery, they have little to no chance of escaping that lifestyle. Their "Pimp" or "Facilitator" lords over the girls and uses force and coercion to keep them enslaved. Those being trafficked are forced to work no matter their physical state or feeling toward the acts they commit.
There is no underground railroad to save trapped victims of human trafficking. The only way to free those ensnared in this modern version of slavery is to end the demand. Americans must become aware of the travesty of sex trafficking.
The Library of Congress reports that the transcontinental slave trade in the United States garnered almost 4 million slaves. The demand for production, change, and financial impact was claimed as the reason for slavery. But today, the demand for sex in our nation is causing a skyrocketing demand for human trafficking.
Globally, Polaris Project estimates that 40.3 million people are suffering due to human trafficking. Since 2007, 229,000 U.S. calls have been made to their human Trafficking Hotline. (And that’s just the people brave enough to report it. We’ll never know the exact number of victims left in the shadows.)
The nature of human trafficking isn't as obvious as the pre-civil war slave trade, but it’s happening all over the U.S. It’s robbing our youth of innocence, freedom, and happiness. Just as Harriet fought for injustice, today, we need people willing to step up and protect our children. While many are working in the field and being tried-and-true Tubmans, until sex slavery is completely abolished, they need more help. Far too often, many believe trafficking is a foreign issue or one that only involves foreign victims being brought into the U.S. to work, but that isn’t the case.
Human trafficking is slavery. It’s something that ruins lives, hopes, and innocence. It can affect any person from Tupelo, MS to Mumbai, India. No one is safe. If we choose to remain uneducated on the issue, U.S. girls and boys will continue to be raped, beaten, and tortured at the pleasure of other American men (and women).
Education is the key to overcoming human trafficking. When we’re aware, it’s harder to remain indifferent. However, Facebook and other social media sites present a false image of what human trafficking is. Posts/tweets that “inform” mommas about the men who creepily watch girls in the store and claim “I was almost a victim of human trafficking,” don’t depict the truth about trafficking.
Traffickers love when these tactics are posted over social media. While we’re crying over these posts and scared to go shopping, traffickers are talking to America’s children and building a relationship with them. The average age for a child to enter into the enslavement of trafficking is between 14 and 16. Traffickers build relationships through social media, video games, or causally meeting them around town. They choose children with low self-esteem and woo them by giving attention, love, “protection,” or gifts.
They aren’t focused on a “snatch-and-grab” kidnapping. Instead, they lure and prey on American children before forcing them into trafficking.
As a parent, guardian, teacher, nurse, or concerned citizen, it’s vital to become aware of the children and teens around you. Do they seem depressed? Are they showing up with gifts and expensive new clothes? Do they talk of a new or older boyfriend? Are they showing signs of physical or emotional abuse? Do they show signs of running away?
If so, don’t take these symptoms lightly. Question them, mentor them, and possibly contact the human trafficking hotline if you feel it necessary. For more information about signs and behavior of traffickers or children that have been affected, visit Sharedhope.org/resources.
Harriet once proclaimed, “Slavery is the next thing to hell.”
It was then, and it is now. Without education and awareness of human trafficking happening in the States, we’ll never see an end to it. Simple actions are education, awareness, and restoration.
While we sit pretty in our polished pews, spending untold hours on our favorite social media websites, and keeping up with our favorite sports teams – many of America’s youth are being forced into slavery. Our prerogative must be awareness and justice for the weak. If it’s not, what is? Harriet’s goal was to rescue the slaves, just as it was for Jesus to rescue us from the bondage of spiritual slavery. Through Christ, we have the power and courage to minister to the enslaved children. Will we?