by Joel Arnold
“The man from the limousine stops, takes off his sunglasses and squints. He removes the handkerchief from his face and smiles. “How old are you?” he asks Zeya.
“Sixteen,” says Zeya.
“Are you hungry?”
“Yes. And my grandfather.” She nods toward U-Po. “We’re all hungry here.”
The man studies her for a moment. “I have work for you if you want it,” he says. “In Kuala Lampur. The hotels are looking for help. The pay is good.” He nods at U-Po. “You can send money to your family and still have enough left for yourself.”
Zeya looks at U-Po, who continues to mumble to his dead wife. He is the only family she has left. “What kind of work?” she asks.
“Housekeeping, restaurant work, laundry. Very good honest work and the pay is excellent.”
“But my grandfather – ”
The man looks at his watch. “I’ll give you fifteen minutes to decide. Then I must go.” He raises the handkerchief to his face and walks away to talk to one of the other girls nearby.”
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States. It is estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime. However, trafficking is also something occurring much closer to home. Estimates indicate between 100,000 and 300,000 children are trafficked for sex in the US each year, with the average victim being just 14 years of age. Also, 27% of trafficked victims are held for purposes of domestic servitude and 10% for work in agriculture. There is no single profile for trafficking victims; trafficking occurs to adults and minors in rural, suburban, or urban communities across the country. Victims of human trafficking have diverse socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented. Traffickers target victims using tailored methods of recruitment and control they find to be effective in compelling that individual into forced labor or commercial sex.
Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking:
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Warning Signs for Child Sex Trafficking
- Chronic runaway/homeless youth.
- Excess amount of cash in their possession (may be reluctant to explain its source).
- Hotel keys and key cards.
- Lying about age/false ID.
- Inconsistencies when describing and recounting events.
- Unable or unwilling to give local address or information about parent(s)/guardian.
- Presence or fear of another person (often an older male or boyfriend who seems controlling).
- High number of reported sexual partners at a young age.
- Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites.
- Injuries/signs of physical abuse (that they may be reluctant to explain).
- Inability or fear of social interaction.
- Demeanor exhibiting fear, anxiety, depression, submissiveness, tenseness, nervousness.
- Is not enrolled in school or repeated absence from school.
- Does not consider self a victim.
- Loyalty to positive feelings toward pimp/trafficker.
- May try to protect pimp/trafficker from authorities.
- Prepaid cell phone.
How can you help?
Organizations combating human trafficking in your area: NGO’s in your area
20 ways you can help fight human trafficking: Help
Avoid products that facilitate human trafficking:
According to research by the Polaris Project, human trafficking often operates alongside legitimate businesses. From chocolate companies to electronics producers, a number of corporations use human trafficking and forced labor as a means to making the most profit on their product. You can find out which companies still use slave labor in the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Do your research to make sure your investments are socially responsible and benefit companies that don’t take advantage of modern day slaves.
About the Author
Joel Arnold is the author of several novels. His short stories and articles have appeared in dozens of publications, including WEIRD TALES, CHIZINE, AMERICAN ROAD MAGAZINE and Cemetery Dance’s anthology SHIVERS VII. In 2010 he received both a MN Artists Initiative Grant as well as the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Gulliver Travel & Research Grant. (more…)
About the Narrator
Misty Dawn describes herself as part warrior and part pacifist, owing to her Comanche and Cherokee heritage. She credits her mother with encouraging her two greatest loves: music and horror, and H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King with teaching her to embrace the darkest corners of her imagination, and to coax those things living within to come out and play.
She hopes to create a YouTube channel and is working on redesigning her blog, Deadtime Musings, from Dusk to Misty Dawn, to include short stories of horror, both real and imagined as well as poetry and lyrics, also of a dark nature. A Navy brat who grew up abroad, she settled in San Francisco, attending UC Berkeley, where she received a BA in Drama/Communications.