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Human sex trafficking is not just something you see in movies or crime TV nor is it limited to specific regions or countries. Last year alone, there were 53 confirmed cases of human sex trafficking in Volusia County according to data collected by the Florida Department of Children and Families. That puts the threat right here in our communities and, I believe, it put a level of responsibility on us to get involved as members of these communities. There are various organizations that you can donate to or get involved with to help recognize & stop human sex trafficking, and support those affected by it.
To start. It is important to understand what Human Sex trafficking is, how it entangles its victims, and where it takes place.
As defined by the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) website:
“Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”
Under U.S Federal law it is defined as:
“The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 USC § 7102).
The key difference between victims of trafficking and individuals who work in the commercial sex or escort industry is consent. However minors engaging in commercial sex, whether willingly or unwillingly, is considered sex trafficking and exploitation of a minor and is a punishable offense under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).
Some methods traffickers use to deceive and/or recruit their victims include seduction or romance, false job advertisements, false education or travel opportunities, abduction, sale by family, or recruitment through current or former victims.
I think most people can see how these scenarios could play out in areas below the poverty line that, are not heavily policed and don’t have the infrastructure to prevent these crimes. However, many people do not believe that in a “civilized” first world country, like the United States, that these things are really all that common. While areas that are in political upheaval or poverty do experience these crimes at a much higher rate, that does not mean it can’t or doesn’t take place in even the most stable societies. Sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 states of the U.S. In the E-book titled “Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States” one of the authors Patti Simon notes that that the United States has an estimated 14,000-18,000 cases of sex trafficking annually.
Another argument that tries to downplay the threat to our communities puts the blame on the victims: “Why wouldn’t it just be reported to law enforcement?” or “Why would those who were not physically restrained just leave as soon as they realized what was happening?” The truth is that there are many types of slavery and bondage that are not just physical, but also mental and emotional.
In his 2009 book “Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery” Siddharth Kara, who is an adjunct lecturer on the subject and recognized as a leading expert on contemporary slavery, describes that once victims are roped into the scheme, their exploiters make escaping the situation nearly impossible through means of threats, blackmail, drug addiction, force, or other heavy consequences so that the victim feels trapped or is physically restrained.
Some examples of establishments or areas in which sex trafficking and exploitation is most common are bars/clubs, massage/spas fronting as legitimate businesses, truck stops, hotel/motels, and residential brothels.
There are some, that while they concede that sex trafficking is a crime that infects almost every community, they may still believe that: “There is nothing I can really do about it. I don’t go to those places, I don’t participate in those activities, or I’m not exposed to those situations or to those people in order to see it as a real threat.” To that my response would be that you might be surprised at how close to home this issue can come. In October of last year, Polk County Sheriff’s Department ran a sting targeting online sex trafficking and commercial sex operations. An article posted on October 18th 2018 by Alexa Lardieri on the U.S News & World Report websites describes the outcome; In just one week’s time Polk County detectives arrested 277 people in the sting, and among them were teachers, doctors, a pediatrician, military – both active and retired, and even police officers. So the people and places you would least expect can be an active part of sex trafficking.
My purpose in standing before you today is to urge you to recognize sex trafficking as a real, ongoing, and local threat and to encourage you to get involved. These heinous crimes take place not just in some far-off countries and regions, or in refugee camps. they are happening right here in our communities. That being said, it is within our communities that people like you and me have the power and resources to combat it. For some that may take the form of being educated and aware, so they know how and when to report something that they find suspicious. Or, perhaps it means donating your time, money, or skills to the cause.
I am here representing Biker’s Against Trafficking (BAT). This is a local organization founded in 2016 to help raise awareness and offer rescue and rehabilitation services to victims of sex trafficking and exploitation. BAT offers free counseling services and, through donations, they provide the very basic necessities to these women and children to get them started towards building a regular life. Many of the individuals this organization is and has worked with do not have a single thing to their name, not even underwear. Some have never even been grocery shopping on their own before as they entered into exploitation as young as nine years old.
BAT operates solely on volunteers and donations; you do not have to be a biker or own a motorcycle support their cause. They do fundraisers, lectures, and sponsored rides that need the support of anyone who is willing. They have a scheduled ride coming up on December ___ where you can ride along in your car or motorcycle for a $20 donation to show your support.
As the Holidays approach, many of you look for a charity or local cause to donate your time or resources to. This year, consider some of the organizations you see here that educate communities like ours, rehabilitate victims, and fights for legislation to end Human Sex trafficking:
If you have any questions about Bikers against Trafficking, their mission, or their upcoming events, feel free to see me after class. Thank you.
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