(A real photo from a brothel raid in the United States via sevenly.org)
My arm has been hurting all day. The aching began when I woke up this morning. I stretched upwards towards the sky and felt a sharp pain shoot through my elbow and into my wrist. The pain was brief and blinding and I gasped as I held it against my breast. I knew why it hurt. I knew why the pain had come today and not yesterday or the day before. This pain was a sign, a warning, telling me that it’s time to stand and fight.
When he took it, he had me up against a wall. I had my arms out in front of me—pushing, wiggling, and trying to escape. I overextended my elbow in the struggle. Now the memory of my trauma is caught there and every time I hear rape, or feel it getting closer my arm aches and signals that it’s near.
Three women who had each been missing for nearly a decade escaped from a home on Cleveland’s west side where they were being held against their will. Most news stations haven’t come out and declared this as a case of sexual slavery but my sinking gut tells me that, that is exactly what this is. One girl, Amanda Berry called out to a neighbor for help as she scratched and pushed at the back door of the house which held her. After the neighbor helped her pry open the door she ran into his arms still clutching the hand of a six year-old girl. The heart wrenching 911 call she made after her escape can be heard all over mainstream media.
For the first time in 10 years we’re hearing Amanda Berry’s voice. A voice that her community believed had fallen silent. They probably thought that she had been kidnapped and killed, that her attacker was some deranged pervert who lusted for the blood of young girls. But he wasn’t. He was a school bus driver and Amanda wasn’t killed on the same night of her abduction, she was kept locked up in a house where she was raped, beaten, and humiliated at her captor’s convenience. Although it now appears less likely that this is a case of human trafficking – which is still a form of sexual slavery – we must take note that it has become increasinly more prevelant in the U.S.. Especially in my home state of Ohio. When we see cases where women and girls are being abducted by members of their own community it forces us to accept that rape is not a personal issue but a societal one.
Think of all the women and children who go missing from parks and neighborhoods every day who we assume have been kidnapped by one killer, one man, who is evil and unlike us. Now, let’s think about the fact that all these missing bodies could be hidden away in a dark room, two houses down from where we live. One man, one killer, one rapist who drives a white van isn’t the problem—we are the problem. Worldwide we have set up societal systems that allow women and children to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. By allowing this to continue we reinforce the notion that women are worthless and that our identities are meaningless. If there weren’t men willing to buy sex, and men and women who place a higher value on money than on the humanity of women and girls than sex trafficking wouldn’t exist, it’s that simple.
Last week 13 were arrested in New York for having ties in a human trafficking ring. These men were promising Mexican women brighter futures in the United States and then selling them to brothels once they crossed the border. This wasn’t even big news. I didn’t see it in any headlines; it didn’t cover any of the popular magazines or printed papers that I pass in the supermarket. Besides an official news release from the Department of Homeland Security, the story didn’t see too much airtime. It was covered, but it didn’t get as much recognition as it should have. Women’s lives were stolen right under our nose. We should be up in arms about that but instead there’s just—silence.
Well I’m not going to be silent. I’m outraged and I will continue to express my thoughts on this issue fearlessly and with determination. When I stand up for women both here in the U.S. and around the world, I’m standing up for myself. When I fight against the desecration of women’s bodies, I fight for my own body. Human trafficking is the greatest form of genocide the world has ever known, claiming the lives of countless women and girls, and I’m sick of it. The rapes, the mistreatment, and the abuse of the sacred female have to end. I’ve made my stand, what will you do to stop human trafficking?