by Laura Fiyak
Sex trafficking. It’s a form of modern-day slavery through forced prostitution. We hear about it in the news. It’s a heinous crime that doesn’t just happen overseas or in areas that we consider the ghetto, nor to people of a particular race or gender. It happens in the city and the suburbs, to both males and females, to both kids and adults, regardless of race. And there are so many misconceptions about trafficking that it is difficult to know how to tackle the problem.
What Needs to Change
According to Governor Snyder, Michigan now ranks number two in the country for trafficking as a whole. And resources for these victims are very limited. Although there are a few facilities that take in trafficking victims, most of them have to first go through the Child Protective Services or Department of Human Services process; but what about the children that need safety now? If our law enforcement still lacks education on how to identify, handle, and properly interview these victims, how can we accelerate the judicial process to move things forward in their favor while they are waiting on someone to protect and care for them?
Michigan is slowly, yet finally jumping on the bandwagon of understanding what sex trafficking is and that training and education is necessary. Though it is fortunate that some state and government officials understand the urgency in this matter and have worked to pass laws to benefit the victims, the next question is, are the laws being implemented as they should be, and is punishment of traffickers harsh enough?
Also, according to a survivor of sex trafficking, there were a handful of times law enforcement offered her no support and displayed more favor to the trafficker than to her. She also claimed that several law officials and doctors were getting a cut of the profit made by the trafficker. Certainly victims can’t trust officers if they are involved in the crime themselves.
Compared to cities like Phoenix, where there are specialized human trafficking units, Michigan is lagging greatly. Last year, [name of organization] sponsored a training to identify victims of human trafficking, given by a former FBI agent who has expertise with working with victims. He offered this training along with grant funding to several local police departments in the metro Detroit area, and all but one turned down his offer.
Where Can We Start?
How can we help? The first aspect to tackling the problem of trafficking is the training of both law enforcement and government officials. If we the people are to call out to those that serve and protect us, then law enforcement has to make sure they have the proper tools to do so. The kids that are missing and being picked up daily by traffickers need to feel they can call for help and be in a safe environment with people who care. This training should be made mandatory for police officers, health care providers, foster parents, and schoolteachers, sooner rather than later. This will require representatives from anti-trafficking organizations, officers that already have the training, and survivors to come together and choose a plan of action. Then, organizations, foundations, and even local churches should be called upon to fund facilities or homes for the care of victims, with trauma therapy counselors that get it and survivors that can help form a curriculum for programs.
When 60% of sex trafficking victims that were rescued in a sting operation by the FBI in 2013 were children in foster care and the child welfare system, it stands to reason that the foster care process should be evaluated, as well.
Parents can also help by educating yourself, your friends and family, and especially your kids. Let them know what to look for, and provide a safe environment for your children and an open door of communication so they aren’t looking for love and direction in the wrong places. It’s time to make a change.