January 31, 2013
Yesterday, I met a woman. Vivacious, passionate, and honest. She was no more than five years older than me (and we were the youngest ones by decades in this crowd of 200+ women). Our paths were similar- growing up in suburbia, just one town apart. We both attended college in New England and eventually resettled back near our roots.
So how did I meet this incredible woman? She was the keynote speaker at a luncheon I attend on human trafficking where we would hear an eyewitness account.
She was a survivor of trafficking.
E courageously shared her story on the chilling and stark day. Afterwards, I made my way to her and told her of our similarities. I thanked her for taking questions, and apologized for what I felt like was ‘victim blaming’ statements from some of the women asking questions. She was so kind, even in explaining why she takes questions and how she continues to live despite this past horror.
What do I wish to share with you here? This. It happens here. It happens next door. It happens to people like us. We are not immune.
As for to-do’s. Nothing can fully protect us from this tragedy, but there are smart steps to take:
- Have honest conversations with your kids about this issue. Help them understand right from wrong as well as what to look for or do in a similar situation.
- Program the National Trafficking Hotline into your phone.You never know when you might see something wrong, and wish you were able to get professional help. 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733)
- Ask businesses that you frequent, especially hotels, airlines, and other tourism companies, if they train their employees on this issue. Again, it does not matter how upscale a place is, trafficking can happen anywhere. Many companies have signed the Code of Conduct, which has 6 requirements, including training their workers to recognize the signs of exploitation and what to do if they suspect a case. This is one great way to empower people to raise their voices.
There was so much of myself that I saw in our speaker. Growing up a mile apart, in the same generation, and so many other commonalities, shocked me. Even though I know the statistics, this experience brought a new level of reality to me.
Let’s be aware. See something suspicious? SAY SOMETHING.
* Disclaimer: In my professional life, I have worked with ECPAT, the creator of the Code.