After watching nearly an hour-long video describing what human trafficking is and isn’t Tuesday, members of the Texoma Patriots heard some first hand stories from someone who fights against it everyday.
“It is actually a business,” said Rebecca Jowers, executive director of Poiema Foundation, a group that works to help trafficking survivors recover, about trafficking. She said the people involved in this business don’t view the people who are being trafficked as people. “All they think about is the money,” she said.
“We are a voice for those who have not voice,” Jowers told the crowd. She said that human trafficking is really just another phrase for slavery in the modern times. Sometimes, she said, people are enslaved or trafficked as sex workers and sometimes they are kept to work in other industries like the agriculture, the clothing industry, or even domestic staff.
Either way, she said, they are people being kept against their will in sometimes inhuman conditions who are forced to toil for others for the profit of others.
Talking to the group at Buck Snort BBQ, Jowers said that individual people can often mean the difference between life or death to those being trafficked. She told them stories of people who were rescued from their imprisonment by neighbors or strangers who acted on that little voice inside themselves that said something just wasn’t right with what they were seeing.
She said it might be that kid at school who is suddenly too shy to talk or the woman in the apartment complex who never looks you in the eye. It is everywhere from small towns to big cities and in neighborhoods where no one would every suspect it might be.
She referred back to statistics given in the film that said there were 313,000 trafficking victims in Texas in a recent study.
“That includes labor and sex trafficking,” she said.
She said children are very susceptible to these kinds of crimes, especially those who have been involved with the foster care system or who have grown up in homes with divorced parents or parents who have issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health. That is not to say, she quickly pointed out, that children from perfectly stable homes are not at risk. Any child with a cell phone or access to the internet is at risk.
That is not to say, she said, that children shouldn’t be allowed to have phones but parents and other caregivers need to know that must think of that phone the same way they would a stranger who came to the door asking about their child. If there were some creepy looking person doing that, she said, most parents would slam the door in their face. Parents have to learn how to slam the door on those who might lure their children to harm just the same way. And, she said, they must help the children learn how to see those red flags for themselves and for their friends.
The film the group watched about human trafficking can be viewed online at https://txssc.txstate.edu/videos/be-the-one/.
For more information about the Poiema Foundation, please see:www.poiemafoundation.org.
To report someone who might be involved in trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888 or text “Be Free” to 233733.