Four years ago, if you had asked me to name my living heroes, I would have been hard-pressed to come up with even one name. I was sure that some existed, but up to that point, my heroes had been ones who appeared in history books. Among more notable ones were: Martin Luther King, Jr., Benazir Bhutto, Anwar Sadat, Harriet Tubman, Miep Gie, Nelson and Winnie Mandela, and many others, but all of whom in my view, placed the interests of others before themselves.
That was before I had learned about human trafficking. I thought I knew what the term meant, but the deeper I dug, the more I realized I had only a superficial understanding. For an intelligent woman, I have been naïve.
During the last four years, I have spent hundreds of hours reading books and newspaper articles, going to see film screenings, checking out related videos on the internet, researching government initiatives, contacting my representatives to encourage them to move expeditiously to help victims, and in general, learning as much as I can about the topic.
At first, I thought that trafficking doesn’t happen in the United States.
The United States is second only to Germany as a destination country for trafficked victims.
I thought prostitutes chose their profession.
The average age of entry into prostitution is 13. If it were possible to set aside both morality and common sense, pure logic would say that it is illegal for a 13-year-old to work, thus, nothing they do could be considered a profession.
I believed that human smuggling and human trafficking are one in the same thing.
Human smuggling insinuates complicity on the part of the person or a conspiracy with a smuggler and a willingness to break laws for the purpose of illegal immigration. Trafficking is not a choice for its victims, and it is not a crime against a border. Human trafficking victims are enslaved through force, fraud and coercion.
I thought that foreign restaurant and hotel workers, domestic housekeepers, landscapers and construction workers were either (a) legal immigrants on work visas or (b) illegal immigrants.
Victims of human trafficking have been found in all of these sectors, and collectively make up about 20-25% of all trafficking victims.
Today’s abolitionists are passionate to eradicate slavery, to ensure that laws protect victims rather than criminalize them, to find and prosecute traffickers, and to help to heal traumatized victims. I am so blessed to have met Rachel Lloyd, an abolitionist, founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) and my hero. In my view, Lloyd lives her passion to help her sisters. Being a hero is in her action. Hero is a verb.