Slavery exists today, and it looks like the highway at night. Human trafficking slithers throughout the streets of the city, making its filthy home on the same roads we travel on Friday nights. I-80 and I-29 are its veins pulsing with young women who are trapped in a cacophony of non-consensual trade agreements. It is not just drugs or weapons shuffled from one backseat to the other in parking lots and hotel lobbies—it’s people. People are shuffled from city to city along the interstate system: a sadistic road trip led by traffickers. It is estimated that 47 school girls from Omaha will enter a life of prostitution this year, according to research conducted by FIX THIS and the number is only increasing.
Slavery exists today, and it masquerades in a silk box with a ribbon on top. Traffickers prey on the vulnerable, and abduction is not the sole form of captor. The mind games begin with a downpour of gifts: some serenading compliments and some materialistic signs of ‘affection,’ both with strings attached. Traffickers approach their victims at malls, schools, or anywhere they can be found alone. Handsome young men are often recruited to charm their way into their victim’s trust. After a bond has been formed, the trafficker isolates their victim from people or institutions that could protect the victim. “Trafficking victims are usually disconnected from family and friends. Once distant from whatever support system they did have, the trafficker turns on them. Victims are broken down emotionally until they comply,” Chief Wheeler said.
Slavery exists today, and it smells like a stadium burger and fries. The same events that warm hearts with fond memories of home-runs and Friday night lights are capitalized by traffickers emboldened by the sexual exploitation of impressionable prey. The College World Series, the Olympic Swim Trials and Memorial Stadium games do not only attract sports fans, and swarms of sex buyers dripping with cash, frothing at the mouth to purchase another human being. The victims are getting younger and younger; the metaphoric price tags cinching their necks climb higher and higher as their age lowers. Police are no longer surprised to see a 12 year-old girl in the station, a victim of human trafficking.
“Public awareness is critical. Whether its law enforcement training hotel/motel workers on what to look for or encouraging the public to say something if they see something that doesn’t look right, awareness of this issue is a critical component.” – Chief Deputy Tom Wheeler of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
Slavery exists today, and sounds like the words we hear every day. It sounds like derogatory names. the ones you hear roll off the tongue and echo in hallways. “Do not dignify ANY sexist or derogatory remarks anywhere or anytime. Do not respond with words or actions. Walk away. However, if you are with family or friends in a safe setting, call the behavior by saying in a strong, firm manner, “That’s sexist”. Don’t engage in discussion or trade insults. Simply repeat calling the behavior, then disengage. Someone who insults women does not deserve your time,” former theology teacher and Marian alumni Kathy Tocco ‘61 said. Creighton University student activists’ research was quintessential to the creation of ‘heat maps’ that help law enforcement capture johns (the customers of human trafficking) and traffickers. Omaha received an “F” in 2011 for its action against human trafficking, but with efforts from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Omaha Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security, the multi-agency task force shut down an international trafficking ring in 2015. “The Omaha Model” was proudly named after Operation Extended Stay brought so many traffickers to justice and victim to safety. This battle is one of many in a war, and its tactics are now fuel for the soldiers combating human trafficking across the country and in Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia.
Slavery exists today, and it stops with you. Human trafficking bleeds into the community, endangering a population of young people who should be more worried about getting their braces off and finishing their college applications than being manipulated by those wanting to make an inhumane profit. The luxury of ignorance is not one that the world can afford; action must be taken. This generation of individuals is strong in their convictions, powerful in their collective voice and unstoppable in their movements. It is the actions of this collective whole who wield the force to end an era of underground sex sales that destruct the binds of humanity.