Claire Ziller and Clare Buntrock: We must work to end local human trafficking
"We may be a free society, but we still have slaves," said Randy Chapman, publisher of the Post-Bulletin, as he opened the eighth annual Human Trafficking Event. That morning, the auditorium at Assisi Heights was filled to the brim with men and women waiting to hear about the slavery our society faces today: human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a complex problem and a widespread downfall in our society today. It ranges from strip clubs to prostitution, filled with women, often underage girls, forced to carry out jobs to meet a quota for their pimps. Human trafficking is an issue that is difficult to bring out of the dark, but one's eyes need to be clearly opened to the complex problem facing our society.
Sister Briana McCarthy of Assisi Heights invited us, two Lourdes High School students that knew little about the topic, to attend the human trafficking presentation in January, which was Human Trafficking Awareness Month. We both had vague ideas of what human trafficking is, as many of the sisters had visited Lourdes High School to give brief talks and presentations about the issue.
Through the Jan. 16 program, we quickly realized the complexity of the issue. We heard shocking stories and became aware of programs implemented to help victims of human trafficking. The conference far exceeded our expectations, shocking us with important information about our city and how unbelievably prevalent this topic is in this society.
Rochester is a wealthy community, which surprisingly entices sex traffickers from throughout the country to this area. Because of the affluence, traffickers know they can make a significantly larger amount of money than in other areas.
Two policemen working to end these atrocities explained to us just how hard they are working to catch people involved. They conducted a live investigation during the conference to illustrate how common human trafficking is. They set up a fake advertisement on Backpage.com to lure those engaged in trafficking.
Backpage is like a Craigslist or eBay, where people can sell services or products. In addition to typical products and services, Backpage also has a section of escorts that are typically managed by pimps who put up ads depicting girls, with vague and enticing information about each one. Consumers use the website to choose the girl they would like.
Policemen take advantage of the Backpage process and use it to coax those who want to pay for prostitution.
For every ad the police put up, there is an average of about 50 to 100 responses of interest. Many of the customers, also known as johns, are caught through these complicated and delicate processes. Authorities chat with them, pretending to be prostitutes, lure the buyers to a hotel and then arrest them.
However, sex traffickers are extremely good at what they do and have become experts at discerning the difference between police involvement and true customers. These people tread carefully, making it difficult to catch them.
Why do these girls take part in this process? Why don't they find a way to escape? Pimps find broken people and break them more, manipulating them into believing they are capable of loving them the way they want to be loved and giving them the attention they crave. They control every part of the girls' lives with physical force and fear. Often, the girls also become addicted to drugs and the ideas constantly induced into their heads.
With all these tactics together, it successfully convinces girls their pimps are the only ones in this world that can take care of them, creating a circle of loyal workers. This incredibly crafty manipulative business is one that needs to be ended, and awareness must be spread to achieve this goal.
After this eye-opening and informative experience, we both realize the importance of informing others about the reality of this issue. Our experience has changed our view on our culture today, as well as illustrated how prominent human trafficking truly is.
We both hope to inform others on all that we have learned about human trafficking and to help those who are caught in a place in their lives where they need support and love.
Overall, we will strive to live our lives in a way that will put an end to the human trafficking issue, one step at a time.
Claire Ziller and Clare Buntrock, both of Rochester, are seniors at Lourdes High School.