Updated: Sep 7, 2021
“Why do you care about human trafficking so much?” I asked my friend Sheena Hawkes as we were discussing her involvement in O.U.R. (Operation Underground Railroad)
She reluctantly said, “I don’t have a story of personal abuse to tell, perhaps I am not the right person you should talk to.”
I reassured her, “No, you are the person that I want to talk to. What is your “why” for putting so much time and energy into this effort to bring awareness about human trafficking and sexual molestation.”
“Well, it is heart wrenching first of all, like it literally makes me sick to think about what these children go through. Also, I am a parent of four children and I am terrified for them.”
Curious I asked, “How did you first learn about human trafficking?”
“I watched a “Time Out for Women” by Tim Ballard (Founder of O.U.R.) He talked about how people do not want to face the fact that this is happening. If we are so uncomfortable talking about it, imagine how the victims feel.”
“What are some things that you are doing to keep your kids safe?”
“We have filters on our computers. We make sure that our kids know that when they are using our phones that they are “on loan” and that we can check and review them whenever we want. We teach them that trust is something that they must earn and keep it. Mostly I just talk with them, education is definitely the biggest way to combat it. There are so many different strategies that the traffickers use to try and lure kids in at all different ages and so it is important to educate my children in what to look out for. Here are some things that I teach my kids.
Always know who you are talking to chatting with.
Never give out personal information.
Pay attention to how you feel. Teach children how to use their natural intuition.
Be available for questions
Teaching our children how to be aware and think for themselves is critical.
This is a testimony taken from “NOT FOR SALE” Copyright 2019 Operation Underground Railroad. All the names of survivors have been changed for their privacy.
“Linda lived in a home full of fighting and drug abuse. At 13 years old, she was looking for a way out. A man contacted her on Facebook and Linda didn’t mind the attention. He started grooming her online and soon he convinced her to run away with him. The night that she decided to run away from home and meet him in person was when he took her to a truck stop and sold her virginity to a trucker. Linda never saw her Facebook “boyfriend” again. She became that trucker’s slave as he sold her at various truck stops along his route. One day someone noticed Linda and the trucker and thought the situation looked suspicious. They called the police who were able to quickly intervene and rescue Linda.
She was soon safe in an O.U.R. partnering aftercare facility. When Linda was asked what she wanted to be when she grows up, she said that her dream is to become a police officer. She said “I was a lost girl and police officers came for me. I want to take those tools and learn those skills and go in to rescue other lost girls…that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
There are 297 registered sex offenders in Mohave County, Arizona. Last week I sat down with Arizona State Representative Leo Biasiucci and he talked about the Law that he was instrumental in getting passed. Basically, if an adult is charged with sex trafficking of a child, or molestation of a child they will have to serve their entire sentence. Often someone that is sentenced with 10 years only serves a very small portion of their sentence, and then is released back out into the public. If that sex offender molests or traffics another child, then they will have to serve a life sentence without parole.
HB2889 - Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking
A. A person who is at least eighteen years of age and who is convicted of a dangerous crime against children in the first degree involving commercial sexual exploitation of a minor or child sex trafficking or involving molestation of a child and the person has previously been convicted of a dangerous crime against children in the first degree involving molestation of a child shall be sentenced to imprisonment in the custody of the state department of corrections for natural life. A person who is sentenced to natural life is not eligible for commutation, parole, work furlough, work release or release from confinement on any basis for the remainder of the person's natural life.
Operation Underground Railroad is a nonprofit that helps save children from human trafficking. T
They were founded in 2013 by Tim Ballard. They have a documentary titled Operation Toussaint that you can watch here. https://youtu.be/7q8dYM90PJA. You can learn more about them by following them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and they also have a podcast called Slave Stealer.
If you’d like to learn more or become a volunteer for their local Mohave County AZ Volunteer Team contact Co-Team Lead Jessica Jewett and Sheena Hawkes at firstname.lastname@example.org