Unmasking the Truth about Children Held in Slavery
On Tuesday, July 28, about 20 people gathered to hear from three heroes in the fight against trafficking in children in the University of Maryland’s Stamp Student Union. Nancy Winston, National Awareness Spokesperson for Shared Hope International revealed many of the myths accepted about prostitution. Pointing out that in each case, minors who are prostituted have been betrayed by someone close, betrayed repeatedly, are considered to be “owned” by someone (a pimp or brothel owner), are criminalized though actually victims, and have no save place to go. Strangely, immigrant victims of human trafficking have more protections and more options than U.S. natives and citizens: for the young girls forced into sex slavery on their own soil, there are little or no programs to protect, support, heal or rescue them. Shared Hope International, started by then-Congresswoman Linda Smith, has in 10 years shone a light on the issue, started safe refuges for women and children violated by this so-called industry, and gathered facts to report to policymakers the extent and seriousness of the problem.
The second speaker, Theresa Flores, shared her personal nightmare as a 15 year old daughter of an affluent and successful family who was drugged and raped by someone from a rich organized crime family, then blackmailed into servicing hundreds of men under the threat of exposing her to her family and friends, as well as repeated beatings and degradations. Over a two year period, she was stalked, intimidated, sold, and broken in mind and body. Yet, her family and friends, teachers and coaches failed to see her symptoms and even believed her to be the problem. Saved by one caring waitress and a surprise relocation of her family, she knows that only a miracle of God averted her murder at the hands of her torturers. She now directs GraceHaven, a refuge for girls caught in this trap. Sadly, for the 300,000 needing such support, only 39 slots exist in a small handful of shelters throughout the nation.
Singer/Songwriter Eric Proffitt then shared his own journey from inspirational speaker to someone who has put it all on the line to bring an end to the sexual exploitation of children. Together with his wife and five daughters, Eric begins a run from Lincolm Memorial in DC to New York on August 1, wearing thick chains to represent the bondage of these helpless victims, culminating at the Statue of Liberty. Eric, who has frequently partnered with WAIT in the U.S. and overseas, is then running across England in the same shackles. He will end at the town that is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery through the efforts of Parliament member William Wilberforce, which was retold in the movie “Amazing Grace.”
The sale of children for sex is strongly fueling the wildfire spread of HIV throughout the world. WAIT intends to work closely with these exemplary organizations and heroes who are dedicating their life efforts to freeing the voiceless ones from captivity to the most perverse and heartless misuse possible. To view the actual testimonies of these inspiring individuals, check theUstream video.