I first heard the term Human Trafficking from my friend Kenneth Morris. He had just co-founded the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation (now known as the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives), an organization devoted to the prevention of human trafficking. Ken is a descendant of one of the most well known abolitionists in American history and has made it his mission to continue the legacy of his great ancestor by focusing on what is considered a form of modern-day slavery — the buying, selling, transporting or receiving of humans through use of force or coercion.
For several years now I have been a member of FDFI’s advisory board and I am proud of the work the organization is doing to not only educate people on the issue, but the work they are doing to prevent young people from becoming trafficking victims as well as perpetrators. FDFI works with school districts across the country and offers a history-based trafficking prevention curriculum called “History, Human Rights, and The Power of One.”
The first module, Human Trafficking: Modern-Day Slavery in the United States focuses on the problem of slavery in our country by introducing the legal framework of abolition in the U.S. (including the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act) along with stories from survivors of slavery, from the past and present. The goal of this module is that students will understand how slaves were and are controlled through coercion manifested both physically and/or psychologically, and will understand the similarities and differences of historical and modern-day slavery.
The second module, Youth for Sale, provides students a basic understanding of the labor and sexual exploitation of children around the world. It describes the greatest risk factors for being trafficked and the methods of international traffickers to lure or force children into slavery. It also exposes students to actual victims’ stories. Both modules include a final service-learning lesson to involve students as modern-day abolitionists and to empower them to protect themselves and their peers from traffickers—as well as begin to work on projects to end trafficking worldwide.
I remember reading an article on Jean Robert-Cadet in the Cincinnati Enquirer when I was a professor at the University of Cincinnati in 1998. He had just published a book on his on experience as a “restavek” who was brought to Ohio from his home country of Haiti by a family he was given to when his mother died. A common practice in Haiti, a restavek (from the French Reste-Avec “to stay with”) is literally a child forced into domestic servitude. Back then there was not much in the way of discussion or legislation around the issue. And today it’s not just a problem in large metropolitan areas.
In recent years, lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, human rights activists, and organizations like FDFI have led the effort to better define Human Trafficking activities, identify and punish offenders, and explore ways to prevent the conditions that give rise to trafficking. Leading up to last week’s Super Bowl, for instance, law enforcement agencies in 17 states arrested nearly 600 people and rescued 68 victims of human trafficking during a sting operation. After last year’s Super Bowl the FBI said it rescued 25 child prostitutes and filed charges against 45 pimps.
The Inland Empire is at the crossroads of two major trafficking corridors – Interstate 10 from Houston to Los Angeles and Interstate 15 from the border to Las Vegas. According to the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force since 2010 they have investigated 300 cases. In San Bernardino there are constant headlines of prostitution ringleaders arrested throughout the county – from the high desert to Redlands. With the rise in trafficking activities we must devote more resources to education, prevention, and of course law enforcement.