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Human Trafficking: Breaking the chains of an unbroken silence

By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Jun 14th, 2013
Posted in All Features

Sister Anne Walch and Sister Briana McCarthy are pictured with Preston Ecumenical Progressive Dinner event coordinator Gerrie Daley after concluding a successful evening. Photo by Mitchell Walbridge

Think about an Indian girl who spends anywhere from 10 to 15 hours per day stitching soccer balls, or of a 16 year-old girl forced into prostitution by her 22 year-old boyfriend who won over her trust by helping her with money and a place to stay, or even an 11 year-old boy working on a cocoa plantation with countless scars on his legs from the strenuous work with a machete. Individuals like these are the horrifying realities of the global human trafficking industry.

Human trafficking is a $34 billion per year industry, involving 27 million victims of which 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second only to drug trafficking for the time being. Although this form of modern day slavery is illegal in every country, it exists within the borders of every nation in the world.

Because of the prevalence of human trafficking in Minnesota, the United States, and around the world, Sisters Anne Walch and Briana McCarthy of Saint Francis in Rochester, Minn. addressed a crowd of roughly 150 people Wednesday, June 12, at the 39th Annual Preston Ecumenical Progressive Dinner hosted by Preston, Minn. area churches.

Sisters Walch and McCarthy have been on a mission, traveling around the nation bringing awareness to the serious issue of human trafficking. “We’re in the 21st century,” explained McCarthy, “We need to look at slavery in a different way, and the first step in facing evil is through awareness.”

Sister Anne Walch defined human trafficking as uprooting a person from their home and family through the use of force or deception and moving them into a situation of exploitation, whether for forced labor or sexual acts.

Some of the most frightening statistics involve children. According to UNICEF the human trafficking industry involves more than 1.2 million children each year. The average age of child human trafficking victims is estimated to be 12 years old.

The issue isn’t just a problem in foreign nations as the United States is home to its fair share of human trafficking. Minnesota even ranks as one of the 13 most heavily sex and slavery trafficked states in the nation.

But why is this industry involving modern-day human slavery so prominent in today’s society? The answer is simple: money. Human traffickers, according to the organization MN Girls Are Not For Sale, can make an estimated $547,000 per year by selling girls they control for sexual acts and prostitution.

To end human trafficking individuals need to expand their awareness. Currently, it’s common for only 1 percent of human traffickers to be prosecuted, equivalent to roughly 3,000 per year.

Being aware of the trafficker’s “toolbox” may help. Traffickers try to manipulate their victims using tactics such as force, fraud, coercion, and control. They also try to keep their victims isolated and threaten them with violence.

The sisters explained that each of us has a role in the battle to end human trafficking. If you suspect someone is a victim, the proper procedure to follow would be to call Minnesota’s 24-Hour Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-7-SAFE-24 and report your suspicions.

The Preston Ecumenical Progressive Dinner ended as a success for its 39th year. The event raised more than $900 to help end human trafficking through various programs. Event coordinator Gerrie Daley commented, “I think this year’s event went over very well. It’s such an important issue that affects so many people’s lives.”

Sister Anne Walch and Sister Briana McCarthy will continue to travel, work with lawmakers, and spread the awareness needed to end human trafficking in Minnesota and around the world.

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