Sex trafficking, human trafficking, is not a myth.
I want you to remember that the most vulnerable populations in the country are female. I want you remember that to be Black or Brown in this country, female in this country, and you go missing? It is more often than not–unless you are famous (read: noticed) you will not be missed. Worse yet? No one will look for you.
Meaning, no one will find you.
Earlier this year, contributor Shauncea Shotwell, wrote about how her father would put her in situations where she would have to get herself out of them. He would be nearby, so there was no purposed danger, but she remembered this:
“Don’t get lost. No one will look for you.”
A writer friend of mine, Ashley Yates, says it this way: “Black women protect Black women.”
This is one of the reasons this platform exists: to be light, a lighthouse, and a warning light.
Today? This is a warning light. Let me give you some stats:
Between 2007 and 2017, the National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 40,987 situations of human trafficking in the United States. The International Labour Organization estimates that in 2016 there were 40 million victims of “modern slavery” worldwide per day. It is unknown how many of those occur within the U.S. But, it is clear that the vast majority of human trafficking occurs without the public knowing. (Taken from SafeConnections.org)
Traffickers lure and control their victims by targeting their vulnerabilities and exploiting them. Trafficking spans all economic and social demographics. However, victims of domestic or sexual abuse, immigrants, the homeless, LGBTQ+ youth, are the most targeted. Traffickers may exploit their vulnerabilities to control them in a number of ways, including confiscating identification documents or passports, restriction or isolation from friends and family, using a victim’s lack of language fluency or knowledge of their rights against them, controlling a victim’s money and holding them in debt, and more. (Taken from SafeConnections.org)
Now, as a woman whom is Black, with children whom are female, statistics like this scare me. They keep me up at night. They keep me praying. But, they have not rendered me helpless. What I tell my daughters is this: be vigilant. In being vigilant, it means you are paying attention.
You are paying attention to your surroundings.
You are paying attention to what surrounds you.
You are paying attention to whom surrounds you.
I remind my daughters that they are in a major US City; they cannot afford to just not pay attention. Here, right here, is where I could truly go in about how we treat Black girls. How we teach them to be warriors before they can ever enjoy–fully–what it means to be a child. How to be a parent of a Black child (and hear me DAMN GOOD those of you who desire interracial adoption), means you have to be able to prepare, protect and advocate. All at the same time!
In raising Black daughters, there is fear that remains a low hum when they are away from you. But they are at the age now where I give these three pieces of advice that my mother gave me, that I will share with all of you.
1.) Know where you are. I know that this sound trite, but you would be surprised how often things can be avoided if you just know where you are! This means don’t go places with people you don’t know. Don’t get in cars with people you don’t know, and don’t accept rides from people you don’t know. You have to know where you are! You have to be an advocate of your personal safety, aware of your environment. This also means this–and keep this in your back pocket!–if you go somewhere with some people you know, and something happens (car break down, arguments, human petty is a real thing), can someone come and get you?
2.) Let someone know where you are. This was a huge thing that my mother instilled in me when I dated or started hanging out with my friends more. You cannot just go out into the world with people no one has ever seen, do not know, or have not met. It is proven through survivors of trafficking, or people whom were almost kidnapped to be put into these trafficking syndicates, that it happens in broad daylight. Or late at night, or with people whom are not known to other people. Or people met on social media! At parties which are fronts for something else.
Listen to me: the people in these trafficking syndicates thrive on ignorance. On avoidance and secrecy. On the naivete of children whom are wounded, lost or rejected. It feeds on them.
Parents: your child needs you to be protector more than they need a friend. Check the phones. Check the social media accounts. Ask questions. Be a safe space for them to talk to, to vent, and sometimes–let life be their best teacher. And be willing to snatch them out of places (i.e., When Harriet Winslow on Family Matters when to a party to get Laura with her hair rolled up, bathroom and looking like she would shoot anyone that stopped her.).
3.) Listen to ‘The Wit.’ This is the ‘something told me’ feeling. I need you to know that this is real.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
My grandmother used to call it ‘Mother Wit.’ This day and age would call it , the ‘higher self.’ But this feeling, will more often than not will save you time, energy–and your life. For me, it has done all three. Listen to that inner voice, sometimes it’ll sound like the people you love–because (sometimes) God will tell them first because you aren’t listening!
The world is a scary place, Torches. And I would be derelict in my responsibility as a Firestarter to not say something. To not make you all aware this is happening in every major city in this nation, and around the world.
If you feel funny about the Uber driver, don’t get in. Call a Lyft. Or call your Mama. Brother. Sister.
If you don’t trust the people you came to a party with? Call someone you trust to come get you.
Get a Trusted Four in your phone. These *Trusted Four should be the people you can rely on to come and get you if you were ever scared, or needed a ride. These people should always know where you are.
This is an insidious pandemic, Torches. Just like AIDS. Just because you don’t hear about it, or doesn’t happen to someone you know, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Stay safe, Torches.
*-The Trusted Four criteria will be posted on Facebook and IG later today.