Raising Awareness of Modern-Day Slavery: CCBC Dundalk Christian Fellowship Hosts Speaker from Maryland Rescue and Restore CoalitionDecember 5, 2013 // 1 Comment
Jenni Burnam CCBC Dundalk
Slavery is not a thing of the past; it’s happening all over the world today, and even right here in Maryland, says Danielle Lohan, Community Partners Liaison at the Maryland Rescue and Restore Coalition.
There are currently about 29.8 million people enslaved around the world, according to the latest estimate from the Global Slavery Index, updated annually by the Walk Free Foundation.
“Modern-day slaves are not in chains, so it’s not a visible issue. People may not realize it’s happening right here in our own community,” said Lohan.
Addressing a gathering of about forty students and faculty in the Community Center at CCBC Dundalk, Lohan presented the stark reality of human trafficking and enslavement in the modern world.
The event, organized and hosted by Danielle Stiles and other members of the CCBC Dundalk Christian Students’ Fellowship, aimed to raise awareness of the global, national and local issue of human trafficking.
Stiles, who is also the Young Adults Pastor at the Eastern Assembly of God, actively volunteers for the Maryland Rescue and Restore Coalition, and has helped coordinate volunteer opportunities for other CCBC students. She is one of about ten regular members of the CCBC Dundalk Christian Students’ Fellowship, which meets Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. in J209 at Dundalk. She says of the group, “our purpose is to build each other up, be a support for each other, and share faith.” Before lunch was served, Stiles prayed aloud to God to bless the food and all the people in attendance, and to deliver those trapped in lives of exploitation and suffering.
Of the nearly 30 million slaves worldwide, an estimated 57,000 to 63,000 are enslaved inside the United States, according to the Global Slavery Index. Some estimates put that number closer to 200,000 including missing and exploited children.
Why is slavery so prevalent today? Because it’s very, very profitable, explains Lohan. The average cost of a slave today is $90, according to Free The Slaves, and a single sex slave can earn a pimp $250,000 in one year, based on a study highlighted in the book A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. A slave can be sold again and again. Traffickers profit an estimated $32 million per year, based on an International Labour Organization report.
Traffickers lure their victims with fraudulent promises, and then gain total control over their victim’s lives through violence or the threat of violence, withholding food, drugging their victim, and using other dehumanizing tactics. Modern slavery in the United States encompasses sexual exploitation, debt bondage, involuntary servitude, and forced labor.
In Baltimore County and Baltimore City this year, numerous arrests of traffickers, mostly for forced prostitution, have been reported in local news. Most of the victims were trafficked from other states, and many were minors.
Yet, Lohan says, the Maryland laws need to be more rigorous to really impact the problem. Often, she explained, victims of trafficking have valid fears that if they report or testify against their captors, they will suffer violence or other abuse as punishment. Trafficked persons who escape may fall back into their captors’ hands if they don’t have a safe and secure place to go. Further, without a means of self-support, they may choose to return to the trafficker. Maryland laws, like those of many states, can’t adequately protect these victims.
The Maryland Rescue and Restore Coalition was founded in 2009 as a victims’ support organization, then gained an official designation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010, expanding their mission to train social workers, health professionals, and law enforcement to identify and report victims. They work to raise public awareness, advocate for more rigorous laws, and even reach out to at-risk offenders to prevent them from engaging in trafficking.
Through The Samaritan Women, the Mid-Atlantic’s first therapeutic residence program for human trafficking victims, and Safe House of Hope, a community outreach center in Baltimore City, the Maryland Rescue and Restore Coalition offers victims of sex trafficking the support and tools they need to rebuild their lives.
Of the residence operated by The Samaritan Women, Stiles explained how important it is for the survivors living in the therapeutic residence to have a safe and supportive community where they can heal from years of trauma. They live and work on a farm, and the work on the farm is part of the healing process, Stiles said.
The program is long-term, and the duration is different for each participant depending on their needs, with a flexible timeline based on 18-24 months. The women learn to replace toxic patterns with positive habits, participate in a supportive household, gain culinary and horticulture skills, receive education, and have access to opportunities upon leaving. The Samaritan Women was founded in 2007.
According to Lohan, there are only roughly 100 places available in residential programs for the many thousands of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. who need safe havens to heal. Resources for male victims are lacking. And for minors, the most vulnerable group of all, the legal framework still allows them to be arrested for prostitution then released back into the orbit of their pimps. And the foster care system loses significant numbers of its children to trafficking each year.
Safe House of Hope in Baltimore City offers some help to fill the lack of residential programs. It is a community-based resource center which offers women who are victims of sex trafficking a safe space with support services ranging from therapeutic support, free clothing and food, to referrals for housing and healthcare, and job training and education, and more. They do daily street outreach to seek out those still trapped in a life of sex slavery and show them a way out. They serve 20-30 active drop-in clients every day, with the goal of helping each to realize her own strength and ability to achieve self-sufficiency.
There is far more to the global issue of modern slavery. Though it’s shocking to see it in our own United States, the highest percentages and numbers of enslaved people are not living here. Slave labor we don’t see is somewhere in the supply chains of many of the things we buy. In the U.S. and elsewhere, there are recruiters promising girls the chance to model and see the world, when the reality is the girls will be abducted, trafficked, confined, sold and re-sold and abused. And there are laborers whose passports have been stolen by their “employers” who force them to labor without pay indefinitely to pay off a “debt” that will never be paid.
The goal of anti-slavery organizations such as Free the Slaves is to eradicate slavery in our lifetimes. They argue that it is possible, saying: “We do not face the barriers previous abolitionists had to overcome – the laws are in place, there is no large-scale economic vested interest supporting slavery, and everyone agrees that ending slavery is morally right. What’s more, while 21-30 million is a large number of slaves, it is also the smallest proportion of the world population to ever be in slavery. The estimated cost of freeing all slaves is in the tens of billions of dollars, a large sum, but similar to the cost of the city of Boston’s “Big Dig” road tunnel project. Eradicating slavery is an achievable goal that will bring a sizable “freedom dividend” to the global economy.”
The survivors who learn to thrive are holding the light for those who are still trapped, and those free but too broken or lost to find their forward. Safe House of Hope was founded by a survivor of sexual abuse. Women who have benefitted from programs like Safe House of Hope are becoming activists, like Katie, who tells her story in a video linked here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPY9ITWuf7E
To volunteer for organizations that fight human trafficking in Maryland, contact Danielle Lohan at mailto:email@example.com or go to www.marylandcoalition.org, www.thesamaritanwomen.org, or www.safehouseofhope.org.
For local news on human trafficking, see http://marylandcoalition.org/coalition-in-the-news
For more information about the global issue of modern-day slavery, visit http://www.globalslaveryindex.org or http://www.freetheslaves.net
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