Sex trafficking is a common topic when it comes to other countries, but that’s not the case when it comes to America. However, this is an epidemic in our communities. Did you know that there are roughly 300,000 minors at risk of being sold every year? And did you know that Michigan is the number two state in the country for the sex industry behind Nevada. Sex trafficking is such an untouched topic in America. But it’s something that’s very present in all our communities. But what exactly is sex trafficking? Sex trafficking is like human trafficking but sexual exploitation. It’s the trading of humans for sexual slavery. Children are affected by this every year, not just adults. Abusers are preying on children as young as 12 to 14 years old. And they’re making quite a bit of money off them. The average pimp (a pimp is someone that controls their victims and rents them to clients) makes around $150,000 – $200,000 per child each year. With most pimps exploiting 4 – 6 girls that money adds up fairly quickly. (wearethorn.org) Children are being abducted and sold to the highest bidder, and are being forced into prostitution and child pornography. In Michigan thousands of children are enduring these injustices everyday.
According to Fox 2 News Detroit, in 2015 Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, appointed Erin Diamond from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department to lead a team to help put an end to this fast growing problem. The team recently helped save and return a 16-year-old named Aaron Blackwell and his 13-year-old sister named Emma Blackwell that were kidnapped at gunpoint. They were being forced to do unspeakable things by their captors. The stopping of sex trafficking began to become more and more of a priority over the past few years. (Fox 2 Detroit)
Many people say that sex trafficking is a modern form of slavery. People are being forced into this with little to no pay, being controlled by force, fraud and/or coercion. The abusers use tactics like physical restraint, transporting, rape and physical abuse. They also tend to lie to their victims with offers of marriage, employment and the chance to have a better life that never happens. When an abuser uses coercion they use threats, abuse of the system and psychological abuse. Anybody that experienced something like this could have severe mental issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTS) that would need to be dealt with once they are out of that world.
Sex trafficking is no longer just prostitution on street corners but because of the internet it has become a larger and more accessible business. It’s shocking that an average of 75% of underage sex trafficking victims stated that they have been advertised and/or sold online at some point. (Wearethorn.org) It makes you wonder what people are actively searching the web for these sex workers. There are many different forms of sex trafficking. Some of the most common are prostitution, pornography, and exotic dancing. But there is also live-sex shows which occur over the internet and people can tune in and watch the victims without having to leave their homes. There is also mail-order brides, military prostitution and sex tourism (sex tourism is when you chose a country with less strict prostitution laws and have the intention of taking advantage of them.). (Michigan.gov)
This is the second largest criminal industry at roughly $32 billion, and with all this money being exchanged and people being forced into this world why is it going unnoticed? Michigan being so close to the Canadian border and being surrounded by waterways increases the likelihood of trafficking in the state. There have been cases of minors involved in forced prostitution being trafficked through Michigan truck stops and then moving onward to Toledo. Some of the cities in Michigan with the highest cases of sex trafficking are Detroit, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. Not only are major cities prime areas to sex traffic but also big events. Cities like Detroit where many big events like sporting events and concerts are held makes it a very accessible place for sex work. The Auto Show is huge event for the city of Detroit and with it comes lots of tourist. This makes it a prime event for sex workers to attend. Sex trafficking operations can be found in highly-visible areas such as prostitution on the street, massage parlors, spas, and strip clubs. There are even underground systems such as brothels that operate commonly out of residential homes. (acf.hhs.gov)
Recently a story broke, on March 2nd, about a 32 year-old man named Ryan Travis who was trafficking multiple women and even some children in Michigan. He was running this operation out of his home in West Bloomfield. He was under investigation for fraud when the police gained a warrant to search his home. But upon searching they found more than they thought they would. There was an adult victim found chained and locked to a stripper pole according to police reports and the court documents. She had been chained up for two weeks when the police arrived. According to Mr. Travis she was being punished for try to escape. She was just one of four adult women found in his home. There was also a child victim found. She was only 4 years-old. Upon obtaining his cell phone during the police raid of his home; the police discovered multiple pornographic pictures of underage children on it. He pleaded not guilty for the charges of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and producing, possessing and transporting child pornography. He is currently in jail without bond awaiting trial. (CNN.com)
When I was in High School, during my senior year,l a hotel not to far from my house was raided and it turns out that an underage sex trafficking ring was taking place. Around 15 girls were rescued from their captors and reunited back with their families and friends. But the most shocking part of the story to me was not the fact that these girls were being sold, with the kind of world we live in that’s not surprising, but the fact that this was going on walking distance from my home and school and I had no idea. I wasn’t the only one; this was a shock to us all. We just could believe that something like this had been happening for months so close to us all and we had no clue. But how could we have known?
Some people manage to survive and escape from their captors. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Michigan in 2015 there were only 717 calls placed to their center and only 152 human trafficking cases actually reported last year. In the cases reported, 127 were females while 17 were males. The amount of adult cases were 90 and 52 were minors. United States Citizens reported were, 47 and 26 were not. These numbers are so low because the victims aren’t aware of the help that’s available to them or they are afraid to seek help because of their abusers.
Leslie King, a women from Grand Rapids, Michigan, came out a few years and decided to tell her story. She has spent most of her life being sold for sexual purposes which started when she was just a young child. She grew up in a dysfunctional home and was molested at a young age. She ran away from home when she was only 15-years-old. She eventually meet a man who was very kind to her. He eventually convinced her to sell herself. She was first sold into prostitution when she was only 15-years-old. She was moved around from state to state being trafficked. She was afraid to leave for fear that her family would be killed. She stayed for a long twenty years. Now, at the age of 49, shes trying to do some good for other women that are going that what she went throught. She started a program called Sacred Beginnings, which opened in 2005, where she spends each weekend helping by giving them a transitional home that gives them a safe place to recover from their sexual exploitation, substance abuse and human trafficking. Her and the rest of the staff spends multiple hours at night handing out contact information to women and also hygiene products. King encounters women every weekend that can’t handle what they endure all the time and they contemplate solutions like suicide to stop it. King wants to encourage all the women out there to leave their lifestyle.
Sex trafficking isn’t talked about much on the news, but it is still present. Grand Rapids police in 2012 arrested 97 individuals for involvement with sex trafficking. In the past five years, prostitution has spread more throughout the city. The police say that the internet is playing a huge role in this spread. Websites like Backpage and Craigslist make it easier for any worker to get directly in contact with someone that’s willing to pay for their company. They are no longer out in the open for law enforcement to see but this can actually lead to greater danger. With meeting these people online they have no idea of who they are talking to and what their true intent could be. This business is no longer solely on street corners of bad neighborhoods but it has taken it’s presents online. According to surveyed victims 63% of them were sold online at some point. (wearethorn.org) It is estimated that 76% of transactions for sex with underage females occur on the internet. (Michigan.gov) Pimps can actually be of help when it comes to making sure the person working doesn’t get hurt, but that isn’t always the case. King, has actually been in a scary situation when she was working. She was kidnapped, tied up and physically abused. According to her there’s only a 50/50 chance of coming back alive when something like that happens to you. There is always somewhere to go for help. Many places have resources for those affected by this that you wouldn’t normally think of. Like the University of Michigan and Michigan State University will help victims and those individuals that wish to prevent human trafficking. The University of Michigan offers the “Human Trafficking Clinical Program” that started back in 2009. This program has two parts, the first being the Human Trafficking Clinic and the second part being the Human Trafficking Law Project. The University provides legal services to victims of human trafficking regardless of age, gender or national origin. The Human Trafficking Clinic is actually the first legal clinic solely dedicated to Human Trafficking in the United States. This program provides many services, including direct representation of both domestic trafficking victims, and community education and training. Online they even have a whole database of cases that are open for the public to view.
In July of 2013, the FBI did a federal investigation and arrested more than 150 traffickers worldwide. They did numerous sweeps throughout Michigan. One notable one was in Flint, Michigan, were two 17-year-old girls were found and rescued and their trafficker was arrested. It isn’t always easy to spot a child victim. The Hope Project website states that the key identifiers of a child sex worker are: Exhibits physical trauma, malnourished, shows signs of drug addiction, and inappropriately dressed. Helping someone is always something you can do. (TheHopeProject.com)
Michigan isn’t perfect it’s far from it but some of the problems we have we can help put an end to them. No, we can’t fix the all the potholes ourselves or fix the whole Flint water crisis but we can say something. The more people know about sex trafficking and how it is taking place all around us the more people will want to do something to prevent it.
For our final paper in Composition 106 we had to chose a current Michigan issue to research and write a 7 – 9 page paper on the topic that we chose. We also had to do a presentation in front of of a small portion of our class. How the views (my classmates) felt about my research determines my grade on the assignment since the are the one grading it. Then after all that was finished I had to a 2 – 3 page paper going over my writing process.
My current Michigan issue that I wanted to research and go over was sex trafficking. I wanted to do my final paper on Sex Trafficking because it’s a topic that’s not really on America yet alone Michigan. My interest was first peeked when a sex trafficking scandal broke close to my home. This occurring so close to me and no one around even knew it was taking place. It was a wake up call not only for me but I think for everyone in my neighborhood. That’s what made me want to do this topic for my current Michigan issue.
To start of my paper I started by figuring exactly what about sex trafficking I would to talk about. Did I only want to talk solely about current event stories about sex trafficking to show how many events that involve sex trafficking actually take place in Michigan or should I only tell uplifting stories about survivors?
For my paper I decided to talk about it all. I began by researching world facts about sex trafficking then I quickly dug into how these facts applied to Michigan. I looked into age ranges of victims, how victims were being abused, how the victims ended up in these situations. I also looked into recent cases in Michigan along with which city has the highest numbers when it comes to trafficking. In the beginning of my essay I also decided to included the definition of sex trafficking. I also talked about and included the definition of human trafficking sense sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking.
I typed my whole paper within a few hours and turned in my rough draft. I felt confident about my paper with all the reasearch I had done from all the days before I worked in it but I of course knew that the paper would need adjustments. Then I went through the process of peer reviewing in class. I had my paper read and reviewed by two different classmates and took into account the comments and feedback that they had given me and applied their advice to my paper. With my peer review and with the feedback of my professor I went and turned my 5 page paper into a 7 page paper. After I finished my final paper I reread it a few times and made changes as I saw fit. Then I emailed the final paper to my mother to have her read over it and for her to give me her opinion on it. She thought the paper was good as is but suggested minor changes. After my paper was completed I began working on my handout. I went back through my paper and highlighted the parts that seemed to be the most important topic wise and then I put the facts that correlated with that topic then bullet pointed them on the handout. After the handout I prepared note cards with detailed versions of what I placed on said handout.
Once I was done with my presentation on Thursday I began working on this paper. I realized while writing this paper and while giving that we as Michigan citizens know very little about sex trafficking in our state, myself included. I spoke to about eight other students and shared information with them but there are still so many people out there that aren’t educated about this spreading epidemic. So I hope my essay and my presentation brought forth some knowledge and that more people are aware and hope they go forth and spread some of their new knowledge. The more people aware the better.
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