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Human Trafficking: Meet a Victim of the Sex Trade

Most twelve-year-old girls worry about turning in their homework on time and getting along with their friends. They usually have chores they’re required to do at home, and if they are lucky, they may get a weekly allowance. At age twelve, Karla Jacinta worried about meeting her quota of 30 customers a day, seven days a week. She did her best to stay on the good side of her pimp, a sex trafficker ten years her senior who had initially lured her away with false claims and tokens of affection. Her duties included pleasing her customers and keeping the money coming in the various cities where her trafficker transported her.

Karla was finally liberated by an anti-trafficking operation in Mexico City. By then she had a baby of her own, fathered on her by her boyfriend-turned-pimp. At age sixteen, Karla had her life back, but it was one filled with wounds and scars that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

Sex trafficking is a modern form of slavery operating everywhere in the world, including America. Visitors waiting in customs lines to formally enter onto US soil might notice human trafficking posters that have been put up by the Department of Homeland Security. These display a picture of a typical trafficked person and provide a phone number you can call to report a suspected trafficked victim.

Contrary to a common myth that all sex-trafficked victims are kept in bondage, Karla was technically never held against her will, never drugged or chained to a room. Like many other victims, she could have easily run away, reported her pimp, sought out help. But there were other factors that kept her enslaved. Most trafficked children as well as adults share several common risk factors, as the Office on Trafficking in Persons ( https://www.acf.hhs.gov/otip ) reports. Among these include a “prior history of abuse or sexual violence, generational trauma, poverty, unemployment, and unstable living situations or homelessness.”

In a 2015 interview ( http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/10/americas/freedom-project-mexico-trafficking-survivor/ ) with CNN, Karla said she first began to be mistreated and sexually abused when she was five. Her future pimp pressured her to run away with him, enticing her with attractive gifts and promises. It was easy for Karla to make a decision when one night she came home late and her mother refused to open the door. Unwanted and unloved at home, the twelve-year-old girl ran away to live with the only adult in her life who seemed to care about her.

When Karla gave birth to her pimp’s baby at the age of fifteen, his leverage over her increased, as he could then deny her access to her child if Karla misbehaved. This practice is common in established sex rings. The perpetuators have been in this business for many years and can easily spot vulnerable victims, coax them into servitude, and then keep them there without ever using physical restraint.

The man who plunged Karla into a world of horror and pain was from Tenancingo, a Mexican town known as the sex trafficking capital of the world. The corruption goes all the way to the top: CNN spokespersons were twice turned away when they requested to speak with Tenancingo’s mayor. Every level is involved in this lucrative trade, from local boys who are trained as pimps, to government officials who are bribed or even directly involved.

Though most victims do not speak out, Karla eventually contacted the U. S. Congress as well as the Pope, and has been working with them to effect change. She is a powerful voice for modern slave sufferers. Fortunately, there are many other people and organizations also working hard to raise awareness of sex trafficking in the US and the rest of the world. There are national as well as local organizations you can contact to learn more, to report a suspected trafficking situation, and to volunteer.

The Office on Trafficking Persons ( https://www.acf.hhs.gov/otip ) is a government website that lists common trafficking myths along with a wealth of other information to help educate the public on trafficking issues.

The Human Trafficking Hotline ( https://humantraffickinghotline.org ) helps people to “find social and legal services for victims and survivors of human trafficking, and connect with training and volunteer opportunities across the U.S. and its territories.”

The Richmond Justice Initiative ( http://richmondjusticeinitiative.com ) is “a non-profit organization of modern day abolitionists who use their gifts and talents in the battle against human trafficking.” Their five-point mission includes raising awareness, prevention, educating, praying, and advocating for anti-human trafficking legislation.

United Against Human Trafficking ( http://uaht.org ) is an example of a regional organization located in Texas. Their motto is “Education is Key to Ending Trafficking.”