Bondage, slavery, human trafficking in New Mexico, U.S.

This article pulled from Taos News.

While human trafficking is everywhere among us, sometimes unseen in plain sight, it is thriving on community ignorance which has allowed it to become the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.

 

What do a 14-year-old kidnap victim, runaway Kansas teenagers, and the now-adult child whose parents groomed and sold her for sex starting at age 10 have in common? They are all real examples of victims of human trafficking, modern day slavery right here in the United States.

While human trafficking is everywhere among us, sometimes unseen in plain sight, it is thriving on community ignorance which has allowed it to become the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world, according to the New Mexico Attorney General’s website.

Sex-trafficking victims can be found in strip clubs, being prostituted through websites, massage parlors, brothels, and escort services. Labor-trafficking victims can be found working in construction sites, farm work, restaurants, panhandling, sweatshop factories, and even in households working as nannies or maids.

For the most part, trafficking is a hidden crime with the perpetrators threatening, isolating, and torturing their victims into compliance. The runaway Kansas teenagers were picked up on the road, and forced under threat of death by their captor into prostitution at truck terminals. Leveraging their guilt for running away, their pimp understood how to play on their emotional needs, manipulating them to think they “deserved it.”

That phrase is also used by the once 14-year-old whose “boyfriend” forced her into the sex trade as well. Seven years after her escape, Asia Graves became a Victim Advocate for FAIR Girls, an organization devoted to preventing exploitation through education and empowerment.

Seventeen-year-old Angela is one of those whose stories are featured on fairgirls.org. “Angela believed the older boy who offered her a ride to school really liked her, never considering that he would sell her online, force her to have sex 10 times a night in hotel rooms in six cities across the United States, and beat her with belts and chains when she didn’t earn enough money. Angela escaped her trafficker and was found by a nurse.”

Minh’s parents started grooming her for sex at age 3, sold her for sex at 10 and maintained a hold on her until she graduated from college. Minh’s parents forced her to sign a contract with them when she was only 8 years old.

Unlike many trafficking victims, Minh knew that if she followed their instructions and kept their secret she would have shelter and could go to school (where she was a soccer star and honor student). After getting free, Minh severed all ties with her parents. Now working with actress Jada Pinkett Smith on dontsellbodies.org and as a victim advocate, Minh was asked why she didn’t leave sooner, she says, “Part of saving myself was to submit and be obedient,” she says.

Community members’ increased awareness and willingness to call for help for the victims can help halt this atrocious crime. Learn some common signs of victimization (not showing emotion or having unusual fear, anxiety or submission; being frequently guarded, not free to leave or speak for themselves; working excessive or unusual hours; little or no personal possessions; “branded” or tattooed by trafficker; and appearing malnourished or drugged; and become more aware of the laborers working in restaurants, construction sites, etc.