Monday, April 12, 2010

Human Trafficking: The Modern Day Slave Trade

ORLANDO, Fla. -- "Slavery is hiding," is the name of an active campaign that struggles against the abuse and debasement involved in the modern day slavery, otherwise known as human trafficking.

Tomas Lares was the guest speaker of a public information session, held last Wednesday and hosted by Valencia's HERO club. The issues of every day minor sex trafficking and forced labor were among the major issues of the event.

The fact is 2,100 children are reported missing in the U.S. every day and an additional 100,000 to 300,000 are at risk for becoming sexual commodities.

In one case, a 16 year old girl began talking, online, to an average 17 year old boy. They began talking and exchanging pictures and pieces of their lives one another, just beginning to open up. The girl didn't know he worked for human traffickers in Puerto Rico and that she would soon be at their mercy. She was rescued after 3 weeks, but by that time she had already been raped and abused by dozens of men.

Kidnapping isn't exclusive to children, alone. In 2006, 24 year old, Jennifer Kesse, was taken from her home in Orlando. No one has seen or heard from her since. No one knows whether she is involved in the human trafficking ring in Florida.

The main motivation for human traffickers is money. The net profit for trafficking was $36 billion last year. Between $33 and $34 billion was made in drug trafficking.

"Greed doesn't discriminate," said Professor Subhas Rampersaud, adviser to the HERO club. "It doesn't care what age you are or of what descent."

People unknowingly support this inhumane business throughout their day to day lives. Mail order brides and female escorts are usually engaged in forced labor by the hand of traffickers. During the Super Bowl, last year, a recorded 300,000 escorts were paid for in the U.S. over the course of a week.

There is still much to be done to prevent human trafficking from occurring.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and DCF have a task force, which meets every November. The problem resides in the constant battle over jurisdiction between counties and the never ending red tape that must be fought off in order to bring an individual case to court.

One setback includes the fact that the victims of human trafficking are usually minors. The child must have a file in DCF's system in order to be considered for help. Then, after forms have been signed, government officials have been contacted, and questions have been asked of both sides, the child is considered "rescued." When rescued, the victims are put in safe houses, until the police and DCF can decide what to do with them. Most end up in a juvenile detention center for lack of a place to stay.

"The system is broken," said Lares.

HERO stands for the Human Empathy and Rights Organization and it's a student club, based on the West campus. Member Margaret Lavinghousez designed the logo and her mother thought of the name for the club.

Former vice president for SGA and current member of HERO, Edward Uzzle, said when he first heard of this tragedy, it squeezed his heart. He was so affected by the information given to him that he had to join the club, as soon as possible. He wants to make a difference in the lives of these victims and help prevent this from happening in the future.

These victims need the help of others to be free of their bonds.

Various psychological tactics are used to keep trafficking victims attached to their owners. Traffickers use drug dependency, debt bondage, threats against family, mental abuse, physical abuse, and many other ways to beat these people into submission.

"Now that you have the information, if you don't speak up, you're part of the problem," said Rampersaud. "Don't let your reaction to this information make you paralyzed. You are becoming a victim, in doing so."

If you think someone may be either a suspect or a victim of human trafficking, you may contact HERO, or find more information at

Previously published in the Valencia Voice

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