JACKSON – Young girls gripped with loneliness and isolated from families as they are sold and exploited for personal desire or service. Sounds like a scene taking place in the back alley of an Asian business district. But according to Kristy Carr, ministry consultant for Woman’s Ministry Union (WMU), the story could be playing out next door.
“Trafficking is the second largest crime in the U.S,” Carr said. “The leading crime in the U.S. is drug use. Trafficking is the largest crime in the world. A drug can be sold once, but people can be sold over and over again.”
Project Help is a WMU emphasis to explore the unethical, selfish use of human beings for the satisfaction of personal desires and/or profitable advantage. The first steps of the project are to educate and to help individuals and churches become aware of the problem.
“We want everyone to be aware and to observe what is going on around them,” Carr said. “So many of our industries offer opportunities for this exploitation. We‘ve seen or heard about instances of trafficking in agriculture, factories, hotels, restaurants, nail salons, and domestic servitude. It is important to be alert.”
Carr tells the story of a police officer who talked with her after a presentation on trafficking.
“He told me of eating in a restaurant and the Chinese waitress gave him several hints during the meal. ‘Looking back,’ he said, ‘I can see it was a cry for help, but until I heard about this, I was clueless.’”
“People just don’t realize how extensive the problem is,” Carr said. “There are 27 million people in modern slavery, someone is trafficked each minute. More than one million children are exploited. We must learn to recognize the signs.”
Carr described several ways to identify people in bondage.
“There are clues for those being exploited,” she said. “If they are accompanied by a controlling person and not being allowed to speak, they may be in trouble. If they are being transported to and from the workplace or if they are in debt to their work place, it could be a sign. If they exhibit fear, have bruises or if they are overly submissive, these could be danger signs.”
Caution is the operative word when these individuals are identified.
“You should be aware and willing to help, but that help should come by calling 911 or the National Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-3737-888. Always let law enforcement intervene because it could be very dangerous.”
Carr had other suggestions for being a solution to the problem of exploitation.
“Number one,” she said, “learn about the issues. Second, pray and take action. Third, help secular, religious groups, and churches already involved in the ministry. Fourth, use government resources to become aware and to discover ways to help.”
Carr also suggested spreading the hotline number around so that people needing help might run into it.
“It is great to write the number on cards,” she said, “and to leave them in bathrooms. Also, using an empty lipstick tube by rolling the number of the hotline up on a piece of paper and putting it in the lipstick gives the victim an opportunity to discover the number without being detected.”
Here is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families resource web site: www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.