By Savannah Scott in Life
“I freed a thousand slaves and I could have freed a thousand more if only they had known they were slaves,” said Lindsay Holmes quoting abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Little did she know that her words from the 1800s would still apply in 2015.
Human trafficking, otherwise known as “modern day slavery,” occurs when a person-often under 18-is induced to perform a commercial sex act by force, fraud or coercion.
With 100,000 exploited children each year and an estimated 422 known traffickers in the Portland/Vancouver area, Clark brought in Holmes to shed light on human trafficking.
Holmes, the manager of awareness and ambassadors for Shared Hope International, presented a seminar at Clark on Feb. 19 to expose the dangers of human trafficking and to provide tools to identify and help victims.
Shared Hope International’s core goal is to “eradicate sex trafficking.” Through training and research, the organization “seeks to inspire creative prevention strategies, expand shelter and services for survivors and also bring justice to the many victims in sex slavery situations.”
Holmes showed a 20-minute video sharing the experiences of two American girls involved in a local human trafficking circuit.
The traffickers, or “pimps,” control their prostitutes by preying on and abusing vulnerable youth. The pimps guilt prostitutes into proving their loyalty. Traffickers are clever in the ways that they protect their “business,” Holmes said.
Common misconceptions of trafficking victims include that they are promiscuous, gang-affiliated, runaways, truant, female-only or that they chose the lifestyle, said Holmes.
“Honestly, most victims are just everyday kids that are in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Holmes. “These kids aren’t selling themselves because it seems like a fun idea!”
Changes in peers, lifestyle and behavior are all “red flags” when talking about vulnerable young people.
“By being able to recognize signs affiliated with sex trafficking and speak up about them, people will be allowing organizations like Shared Hope International to step in and help victims in the safest way possible,”said Holmes.
In addition to watching for signs, Holmes said people can help by volunteering at anti-trafficking organizations.
“It’s disgusting how common and local all of this is,” said social working student Cory Oliver after the presentation. “My long term goal is to open up a place to help men and women who have been taken advantage of and start making a difference in our community.”
Holmes said people need to start taking action. “One in four girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. So why aren’t more people being educated on this issue? Why aren’t we speaking up for those who can’t?”
“As an outsider, it’s really important to note that you will not be able to save everyone. You can’t just walk into a situation and expect to just pick up these people and save the day,” Holmes said. “Pimps are dangerous and won’t hesitate to protect their workers with violence and threats.”
Speaking from experience, Holmes told stories about victims that weren’t allowed to talk about their abuse out of fear that their pimps would come after their friends and family.
Holmes concluded with a quote from British abolitionist William Wilberforce, “You may choose to look away but you can never say again that you did not know.”