As I packed my school bag for my first day of class tonight, I was flooded with thoughts, feelings and memories from when I was in college. I opened up my faded gray cloth shoulder bag, fringed all over from its over use in college, lined inside with gray and purple pinstripes, and I looked at all of the folders I had left in there, many of which contained research or fliers I had had during my final semester of college. The outside flap of the bag is lined with buttons I had collected over my college years, from campus tables to conventions and trainings I had gone to. Those buttons, they symbolize a person I used to be. A person I haven’t been for 7 years. As I looked at what those buttons said, I realized I am not that person anymore. Words such as “no means no” and “listen to women” were causes and sayings I used to believe in and had a passion for, but not anymore. And I thought to myself why not? Why don’t I believe in helping women anymore? I used to be on fire for causes that had to do with women…what happened? During my internship experience for the social work part of my degree I volunteered at a battered women’s shelter, something I related to so much. It was an unforgettable experience and I remember talking with the director of the shelter, asking how I can get more involved. But I never did. Life has changed me. Marriage has changed me. 3 kids have changed me! God has changed me. Those causes I believed in while in college were not bad causes, not in the least. I just lost the motivation to be involved because my priorities changed. There are so many injustices in this world, many of which happen in our backyards, right under our noses.
As I enter into this next stage of school (next stage of my life really), that passion is slowly coming to life, a flicker if you will. I still want to help women, wherever they’re at I want to support them and help them, through whatever they may facing at that moment. But I also want to help children. Having 3 innocent and precious kiddos I always feel my heart tug whenever I hear of a child going without a meal because there is no food in the fridge, or when mom or dad forgets to pick them up at school and they have to sit out in the rain. Or the hardest thing to hear, that a child has been kidnapped, raped or even killed, or used for other purposes, such as drug, labor or sex trafficking. Such a hard topic to discuss believe me I know! It’s not exactly a topic you plan to bring up at your next dinner party. But we need to be talking about it more, in my opinion. As a society we continue to be naive that human trafficking is only a third world problem, that it’s not happening here. I do believe that awareness is increasing on the subject, absolutely. But there are so many different types of human trafficking, that it’s not just about women being bought and sold over the Internet from over seas anymore. It’s happening to women and children here, in Colorado! In fact, according to the Denver Post back in 2013, “60 children as young as 11 years old were rescued throughout the state, up from 49 the previous year. Today, it is believed that there are more individuals in this type of slavery that there were at the height of the transatlantic slave trade”. That was 4 years ago. Over 150 sex trafficking investigations have occured in the Denver Metro area over the past few years, according to an estimate by a local Denver detective. Most of the children that are victims of human trafficking are runaways from home, leaving a hostile environment, as well as homeless children because of low income or poverty. It’s usually less than 48 hours of being on the street they are approached by a trafficker, lured by the opportunity to make some money or better their situation. Denver has one of the largest populations of youth experiencing homelessness in the country, and thus at risk for being trafficked.
Colorado is a real attractive place for human traffickers because there is so much opportunity here. Remember how there have been multiple reports of traffickers being arrested at the super bowl? How it was a prime place for recruitment as well as business? Well Colorado has 4 major sports teams, which provides a good amount of opportunity for human traffickers. Colorado is also home to major interstates. I-70 and I-25 are easy access points used by traffickers to cross state lines.
So, you’re probably asking your self, why am I bringing up such a huge, controversial topic that pobably makes so many uncomfortable? Well, while in college I took a few courses on Human Trafficking, and I was shocked about how unaware I was of this issue. The two professors that taught the course were highly involved in the prevention and raising awareness of Human Trafficking, and helped found the organization Polaris Project, which later formed the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. Two amazing organizations, and the people who founded them are even more amazing and inspirational. The issue of human trafficking is growing, and Colorado is a prime place for it to happen. Colorado needs more awareness of it. The country needs more awareness of it. I saw a frightening picture that was meant to illustrate human trafficking. It was a picture of a semi truck, but you were allowed to see through the truck and view what was inside…it was full of children with their heads between their knees. It was stopped at a stop light, surrounded by cars in the middle of what looked like a suburban area. The caption read “It’s closer than you think”. Have you ever stopped at a stop light next to a big, unmarked semi truck and wonder what’s inside? Now I’m not saying that every semi truck out there is transporting children for the use of human trafficking, but I am saying that it’s happening all around us, and we aren’t noticing it. We need to open our eyes and really see what’s going on in our neighborhoods and in our town. Make no mistake, human trafficking is modern day slavery.
There are many ways to get involved in combating human trafficking, if that is something you feel moved to do. I had attended a volunteer orientation for the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, before I found out I was pregnant with my youngest child, Liam (that seems to always be the case! Pursue something in my life but have a baby instead). I was super excited about it! But, it’s been on the back burner for about 2 years now. Another organization I was really wanting to be involved with was Street’s Hope. Street’s Hope is a Faith Based organization that provides shelter and rehabilitation for women who are victims of sex trafficking in Denver. They have many opportunities to be involved, including bringing the women in the shelter meals (we all know how much I love to cook!), to just sitting and praying with the women once a week. In fact, after the craziness of class is over in July, Street’s Hope may be my next adventure.
If human trafficking is something that you would like to learn more about or you would like to learn ways to get more involved, or if you have information of someone who may be involved in human trafficking, here are some references:
CoNEHT Hotline : 1-866-455-5075
National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline 1-888-373-7888
Until Next Time…..