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It is one of those things people just do not often talk about. I was invited to a luncheon for a women’s group. The speaker, LaNora Purvis introduced the entire assembly in an unforgettable manner to the terror of human trafficking. Her presentation quite frankly horrified me!  Purvis is active in the pursuit of human traffickers with law enforcement assistance; she has found and rescued many trafficked victims. She led us to the girl in this story. Purvis is also founder of Heaven’s Army, a safe home for victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. It is a place that allows them to heal and try to readjust to mainstream society. She is located in the suburbs of Houston, TX, which is currently one of the two largest hubs for human trafficking in the United States.

“Violence and abuse is a community issue. Parents need to educate themselves and be more involved in their children’s day-to-day activities, social networking, especially. Our society is helping groom our children to become prey! Violence and abuse have become an epidemic that is effecting everyone and in order to prevent this injustice from continuing we must shine a light on it! I’m committed to driving the reality of abuse into the conscience of society. However, effective laws and their uncompromising enforcement play a significant role in preserving freedom for society and its citizens. We all need to be committed to advocating for the formation and implementation of such laws,” said Purvis.

I must admit that she is good to her word, her presentation hit me hard that day.

Now, I am going to do my best to do the same for you. I am going to tell you a true story.

A fourteen-year-old girl, smart, underdeveloped, but pretty in a fourteen-year-old kind of way. We’ll call her Ella for the purpose of our story. Her parents are professionals, both successful and incredibly busy. Ella lives in an upscale neighborhood in the heart of Texas. She has all the latest gadgets and a few good friends but no siblings, no responsibilities, and very little supervision. She begins to assuage her loneliness online in chat rooms. Ella knows it’s dangerous, she has been warned! She knows all the stories (like this one), and is aware that her actions can lead to trouble and eventually that trouble finds her.

She meets her fifteen year old “online lover” (who is in actuality a 40-something year old pedophile who routinely sells to traffickers) at a strip center not too far from her home and her parents do not see her again for seven months. When they find her she is lying in the fetal position, all but naked on a dirty mattress in a filthy warehouse in Houston, TX. She has human bite marks, deep and infected from her waist up, her genitalia are a bloody pulp, as is her face, and she is carrying 49 sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). She has a raging fever, left alone to die. She cannot recall the number of men who have used her. She will never have children, she is in shock and cannot speak, she is addicted to heroin, and very lucky they just walked away, instead of killing her when she was no longer useful to them.

Her young body healed, but her heroin addiction and her broken spirit were more difficult to assess and approach. She trusted no one and lived in a spirit of fear. Her parents were determined to save her, they had never stopped looking for her and were instrumental in finding her. They would not stop seeking resources to help her. Of course, we as Americans are all looking for that “silver bullet,” that instant gratification, instant fix that we have grown to expect as a part of our birthright. There would be no silver bullet for Ella.

As a last resort, her parents enrolled her in a treatment center for survivors of human trafficking and less than a year later, she was gone again. This time Purvis’ company was hired to find her. Ella was gone only 17 days before they found her and required two weeks in the hospital recuperating. There is evidence that points to the treatment center possibly recycling the victims, it is currently under investigation.

The personal and psychological toll on any victim of sexual trafficking is immeasurable. Trafficked victims that have been “broken” are used to recruit “new blood” and over 71% of trafficked children have suicidal tendencies.
How could this happen? The human trafficking industry is more profitable today than the drug trafficking trade. It is far more lucrative. Eighty percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, and some are young, very, very young! Ludwig “Tarzan” Fainberg, a convicted trafficker, said, “You can buy a woman for $10,000 and make your money back in a week if she is pretty and young. Then everything else is profit.”

One reason for the spread of sex trafficking is because in many parts of the world men do not think it is wrong to pay for sex. Prostitution is viewed as a victimless crime. That is just not the case. In Western society in particular, it is believed that women choose to enter into the commercial sex trade. However, the majority are coerced or forced into servitude.

Equality Now says, “A holistic and comprehensive strategy is needed to combat sex trafficking effectively. Demand fuels sex trafficking and the commercial sex industry. Holding “buyers” of commercial sex accountable reduces sex trafficking. Sweden, Norway, and Iceland have effectively addressed the demand for commercial sex and sex trafficking by decriminalizing prostituted persons, and criminalizing those who purchase sex. As a result, street prostitution and sex trafficking have decreased.”

Countries that neglect to focus on the demand that fuels sex trafficking, or have legalized the commercial sex industry, have witnessed increased prostitution and greater numbers of trafficked women and girls to fulfill an influx of international sex tourists as well as increased demand locally.

It is widely known that sex traffickers often train the helpless girls themselves, breaking them for profit. They rape them, beat them, and teach them sex acts. A human trafficker can earn 20 times what he or she paid for a girl. Provided the girl was not physically brutalized to the point of ruining her beauty, the pimp once he has made his money back can re-sell her again for a greater price because she is trained and broken, which saves future buyers the hassle.

The US Department of State issues a Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report each year. They say, “Modern slavery doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s connected to a host of 21st century challenges.” The most disturbing fact are the stats at the back of the report. Victims Identified in 2014 Human Trafficking were 11,438, of those 418 were prosecuted and only 216 were convicted.

“Today, more than twelve million people worldwide are enslaved. An estimated two million children are bought and sold in the global commercial sex trade. The sex slavery industry has become an increasingly important revenue source for organized crime because each young girl can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for her pimp. Americans don’t realize that it happens here at home! Thousands of children are forced into domestic sex slavery each year and that the average age of entry is 13 years old. These girls are our neighbors, our friends, our sisters and our daughters,” according to the Department of Families and Children website.

This is not something that is just happening somewhere vaguely “over there.” It is happening here …right here where you are standing! Where your daughters and sons go to college, where your grandchildren play. The world is a smaller place today and while we have brought the wonders of the world into our living room, we have also brought its poisons; and we have brought it to our children.

So how can we protect our children? Do you think tougher laws need to enacted or more involvement from the private sector? We love to hear your thoughts!

 By: Elaine Carnegieon: In: Crime, Slavery, U.S. News, World News