Children learn in school that slavery in America was abolished in 1865. But the dark truth is that people are still sold and exploited for labor and for sex in this country every day.
While there are no official estimates as to the number of human trafficking victims in the U.S., the National Human Trafficking Hotline has already received over 31,000 phone calls, online tips or emails this year. Over 40,000 cases of trafficking have been reported to the hotline since 2007.
Trafficked in two different states as a child and teenager, Tina Kadolph is all too familiar with this image of sex trafficking in the U.S.
“I always felt alone and scared,” Kadolph said.
Some victims are lured into the industry by promises of legitimate jobs or relationships. Others, like Kadolph, are victims of familial trafficking, in which they are exploited by a trusted family member and may not even know they are being trafficked, making it harder to break free.
“It happens with trafficked girls today that people will always say, ‘Why don’t they just run away? Why don’t they just run away and get away from their trafficker?’” Kadolph said. “They won’t because of the mental attachment and the manipulation that happens.”
But human trafficking is a problem that reaches beyond America’s borders. It is a global industry in which victims are taken in and out of countries all around the world.
The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. Seventy-five percent are women and girls.
According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. And between 15,000 and 50,000 are brought from other countries to be sold in America.
After escaping from her own traffickers, Kadolph realized that the issue was bigger than her own personal experience in America. She wanted to use her story to make a difference, but she didn’t know where.
Kadolph stumbled upon Guyana, a small country at the top of South America, while doing research one day.
“Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor,” according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report.
Guyana had been labeled a Tier 2 human trafficking country for years, which indicates that the government was not meeting the minimum standard for acknowledging and trying to solve the problem. But in 2017, the State Department’s report upgraded Guyana to Tier 1. While this does indicate an improvement in government efforts to prosecute traffickers and provide assistance for victims, human trafficking is still one of the biggest worries for the Guyanese people.
“Although the government meets the minimum standards, it did not provide adequate protection and shelter outside the capital, or for child and male victims,” the 2018 report said. “The number of trafficking investigations and new prosecutions decreased, and the number of successful convictions remained low.”
When Kadolph saw for herself the extent of the problem in Guyana, she knew she had found the home for her non-profit organization, Love Missions.
One of the first things she saw in the country was gold miners waiting outside tents to have sex with children.
“You can’t ever imagine the sight of men lined up to hurt children,” Kadolph said. “So ever since that day, I’ve dreamed about having [a safe house] open, and we are so close. I just want to help those people.”
The majority of the Guyanese population live in towns on the coast, but the interior is home to villages where people struggle with poverty and lack of resources.
Some parents resort to selling their children, whether to feed a drug addiction, or to feed the rest of their families.
Kadolph has seen some children who are vulnerable to traffickers simply because their parents want them to prosper.
“I’ve had so many parents try to give me their children and say, ‘Take them back to America because I know they will have a better life there.’”
Traffickers use this desperation, telling parents they will take their children to America or give them a job to provide for the family.
Kadolph does everything she can to help the people she visits annually in Guyana, but she has learned through years of having a front row seat to tragedy that the problem is bigger than one person can solve.
She and her daughters loved to play with one particular little girl every time they came to visit the country. The girl’s mother asked Tina to take the child back to America so she could be educated, get a job in the States and provide for the rest of her family. Tina told her she could not simply take the child.
When the Kadolphs came back, they were told that the girl, who would have been 14, had been raped, become pregnant and died in childbirth. The girl’s father had also run off with a 13-year-old.
Now, the younger sister of the girl who died is 17, and Kadolph is working to adopt her so that she can come back to America and live the life her sister never had the chance to live.
In countries like Guyana where human trafficking and sexual abuse are so prominent, there is often a ripple effect with other social issues.
Guyana has the third highest suicide rates in the world with 29.2 suicides per 100,000 people, according to the World Population Review.
Dr. R. Campbell is in charge of the Skeldon Hospital in the Berbice region of Guyana and has been working at the hospital for nine years. He confirmed that the biggest problem he sees on a regular basis is suicide. The youngest suicide attempt he has ever seen in the hospital was by a 13-year-old.
“It is basically a social illness,” Campbell said.
Even so, Kadolph chooses to find the hope in stories like this and use it to motivate her to raise awareness about the problems not only the Guyanese face, but also those in situations that put them at risk of human trafficking around the world.
“Guyana stole my heart a long time ago, and it’s a beautiful country,” Kadolph said. “But just like anywhere, there is a lot of darkness.”
By Ashley Allen
Part 1: https://bit.ly/2nnu5yV