By STACEY TITCHENAL
For the Keizertimes
“They are sort of the forgotten people in society and they are in need of help….As a counselor, I also believe that everyone is capable of healing,” said Cynthia Shaver, an intern counselor at Concordia University and the founder and chairman of POLE (Purposed, Original, Loved, and Empowered).
It is a common misconception among the general public that trafficking is something limited to third-world countries and too taboo to be happening here in the U.S. Yet every year, 50,000 women and children from at least 49 countries and as many as 300,000 American children are trafficked in the United States.
On Thursday, May 24, at 2:30 and 7 p.m., McNary High School will offer free screenings of the documentary Sex + Money: A National Search For Human Worth, which attempts to dispel misconceptions that human trafficking, is other people’s problem. Much of the content is mature in nature.
According to oathcoalition.org, sex trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age.
More than 1.7 million children run away each year, not to something, but away from something; only a quarter to a third of those children are reported missing. Many of the trafficking victims are sexually assaulted, physically abused, and emotionally neglected previous to entering the industry. The majority of the time, they are either abandoned by the members of their household or decide to finally leave the painful residence. The corrupt upbringing grooms the mindset of these broken souls to feel that being beaten and raped is normal. Between 60 and 90 percent of workers in the sex industry have some child sex trauma in their backgrounds.
Pimps are master manipulators and cunning business men.
Throw away stereotypical ideas of a pimp dressed in baggy, gangster clothes and replace it with a handsome man who has a nice car, an expensive wardrobe, and plenty of money to “pamper” any girl he wants.
“Pimps are very smart and know which girls are desperate for love and acceptance. Their job is to make them feel as if they are the only ones who can love them. These girls become so emotionally and (sometimes) financially dependent on their pimps that they will do anything for them,” said Shaver.
Typically, men are the main clientele, though that’s not always the case. One married couple from Texas ran an online child porn site and there was a Utah mother attempting to sell her daughter’s virginity. What’s more alarming is that the johns, or buyers, are politicians, church leaders, teachers, factory workers, lawyers, field laborers, and everyone in between. Johns don’t always know they’re purchasing a minor for sex, but sometimes they do. Pop culture has glamorized the sex trafficking industry and the derogatory statements made in reference towards women. What isn’t seen, however, is the ugly side of things. Women in the industry are known to have been stripped naked and raped, beaten with metal poles, choked, vulgarly talked to, and treated as a piece of meat.
“Most prostitutes out there are sex trafficked, since many are often raped or made to do sex acts that they don’t want to do. Not to mention the myriad of STD’s and unwanted pregnancies that happen. Sometimes they are held against their will. I know that there was a case where a young woman in Portland was chained in a dog house and raped on a regular basis. Women who are held against their will are typically not given the choice to have their abusers wear condoms or even bathe after intercourse. Women who are enslaved are often forced to have abortions and then resume sexual activity within hours after having the abortion, even if they don’t want to,” Shaver said.
The Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance reports that there are more than 200 victims each year in Portland alone. Portland and other main cities on the west coast are hot spots for human trafficking due to their locations. Portland is not only along the I-5 and I-84 corridors, serving as a major link to Seattle, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, but it has an airport and marine port, which make it easy to import and export sex slaves.
Commissioner Diane McKeel of Multnomah County, District 4, is determined to change these horrifying circumstances.
McKeel is working on getting orange trafficking hotline stickers sent out to places selling alcohol, passing a couple bills in Salem that toughen laws related to trafficking, and raising awareness about the issue. She has testified in Washington D.C. before a senate committee on the topic, but her most successful work has been in receiving recent approval from the board of commissioners to open a shelter for trafficking victims.
The need for change motivated a member of the Keizer community to make a difference. Jessica Mitchell, a McNary High School grad, has been proactive about getting the word out.
“Somebody brought up a website, Love146.org, which told personal stories of girls who had been in the industry. And then, from there, that inspired me to not just sit around and hear about the stories, but do something about it. I decided to get some young people together to fight this injustice,” explained Mitchell.
Mitchell has organized multiple awareness activities, from the Freeze Project at River Front Park where a group of about 30 people stopped and froze for five minutes while holding up statistics, to the McNary film screening of Sex + Money Mitchell is also in the process of working with Jane Titchenal to partner with Young Life and the organization Make Her Beautiful Again. to put together a project called Go Glam. They’re hoping to establish it as an annual even to take place during future formals, such as proms and Snoball. The idea is to get the coordinators together and work with a salon to do the makeup and hair of girls preparing for the event; however, all the proceeds go directly to Make Her Beautiful Again, a nonprofit working with victims of sex trafficking.
For those who want to get involved in halting the business of battered souls and inhumane ways, or would like more information, contact Cynthia Shaver (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Chelsea Morell with Hope International: 360-921-3275, or go to www.doortograce.org.
Stacey Titchenal is a junior at McNary High School.