Human Trafficking, a Human Issue

By Eliza Furr

On Thursday, September 12th, 2013, The UNF Interfaith Center presented the CNN documentary, “Selling the Girl Next Door,” as a part of the President’s Interfaith Challenge. Since Florida is such a hub for human trafficking, some of UNF’s clubs have chosen to come together across religious difference to dedicate time and energy to spreading awareness of human trafficking and all the issues surrounding what essentially is modern day slavery. The film focuses on the prevalence of human trafficking throughout the US and how young, adolescent children are lured into the trade by predatory, manipulative older men and women. Not only do we as a country fail to recognize this reality, but we also refuse to deem it a serious problem. Unfortunately, it seems that the higher up the ladder politics -and salaries- go, the more distant and foggy the real world becomes, namely the violent, tragic reality of human trafficking victims. The girl in focus throughout the documentary had been sold online to men of various ages by her pimp, all before she was 14 years old. However, the state of Nevada disregarded her blatant victimization and sexual abuse and threw her into a juvenile delinquent retention center.

Essentially, the CNN documentary, “Selling the Girl Next Door,” encapsulated everything that infuriates me about the state of the world in regards to the treatment of women- at least under the guidelines of the wonderful patriarchy that we all seem to live and breathe. Would it really so hard to make budget allowances for a counseling center for these girls who can’t get help on their own? Why do we continue to focus on the aftermath of the human trafficking trauma, rather than try to stop the violence at its root source- the lack of men’s sexual education? Why do we continue to educate girls on the importance of being safe, avoiding strangers, dressing modestly, and the necessity to become She-Wolverine with your car keys on that long walk through that dark parking lot where rapists and molesters and predators of all types and sizes and kinds hide behind cars and in your backseat and in that freaky alley way…. Why can’t we live without the fear of sexual assault? Society seems to deem women as responsible for sexual behavior. I think this assumption needs to be evaluated.
The facts surrounding this entire documentary are simple: we have assumed a serious problem to be a minor, harmless issue that doesn’t need to be addressed; we blame our girls for being promiscuous, rather than seeing our girls as sexual prey; we warn of the judicial consequences of rape and sexual abuse, rather than emotional trauma and pain such horrid actions imposed on the victims.

Eighteen women and five men of diverse religious and non-religious identities attended the Q&A after the film. Despite the differences in our religious ideologies, we all voiced in agreement the universal heartbreak that floated around the auditorium after the film, and we all noted the tragedy that this problem truly is, and we all tried to define the exact feeling that such a raw documentary gave us. However, the much-too-obvious fact that nearly tore me to pieces during the talk was while both women and men knew human trafficking is a reality, the men in the room were more surprised at the emotional response of victims – and I like to think it’s because our society has failed to bring these emotional pleas into the spotlight.

We objectify our women. We hurt our women. We discriminate our women. We ignore our women.
These are the facts that need to be addressed. We cannot continue to downplay these horrible happenings as anything other than modern day slavery. We, as a people, as a congregation of humans rooted in all religious, ethnic, and social backgrounds, must stand together in the face of sexual predators and support the individuals we’ve let slip away. This is not a religious issue, nor a gender issue, nor a race issue. This is a human issue. This is a matter of such huge proportions that to ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t exist… Unfathomable.

I hope that the men who attended this eye-opening event took something from it, namely the hopes and desires of the women they surround themselves by, and that her feelings, her pain, her needs, are just as valid and just as deep as his own.

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