In a perfect world, nobody should ever be forced into doing something he or she does not want to do. Unfortunately, many people are forced to do something against their will. I never thought that human trafficking would ever come so close to me. I never expected it to affect my life, but it has in a terrible way through my younger sister, who fell victim to trafficking in small town Arkansas. I am now passionate about bringing awareness to others and helping those who have experienced human trafficking.
Growing up, my sister and I were always close. She was outgoing, bubbly, and friendly. She always had a contagious smile to share with anyone she met. She was always spontaneously getting lost in music and dancing, which is one of the things I loved about her. I can remember how she was always there to lend a helping hand. Behind all of that though, she was a strong-willed and determined daughter, sister, and friend.
My sister was on the road to a bright and successful future and had three beautiful children, but all of that changed when she became dependent on drugs. The effects of the drugs were so gradual she did not see the danger ahead. That bright road turned dark, causing her to lose her job and, eventually, custody of her children.
My sister had a deep desire to be loved by someone. She found that love in a man who also, unfortunately, provided her with drugs. He exploited her vulnerability. He promised to care, to love, and to provide for her. Over time, he convinced her to leave her family and friends behind.
When my sister left, we never knew when she would come home for a visit. We could not understand how she would choose to leave her children behind. A lot of things factored into her staying away. Her absence became more than we could bear as a family, but we continued to pray, believing God would keep His protecting hands over her.
When she did come home, she constantly checked her phone to make sure she had not missed a call from her “boyfriend.” When we tried to talk to her about him, she would get mad and become defensive. Her excuses for him just did not make sense.
In time, our visits with her grew shorter. She had never let anyone tell her what, why, or how to do anything. We could not understand why she was allowing someone she barely knew to control and manipulate her. My sister remained a human trafficking victim for a year and a half.
A trafficker’s goal is to make a profit off of his or her victims. For some reason the traffickers targeted my sister. He made her all sorts of promises, and she believed them all. Her desire to be loved blinded her to his manipulations.
Once he quit receiving a profit off of her, he decided it was time for her to go. The plan was to give her some strong drugs, hoping it would kill her. The failed “overdose,” along with prayers from her family and friends, are what brought my sister back to reality. She made the decision to break the emotional bond with her trafficker and to stay away from him for good.
After spending some time in the ER with her, I did some research, where I found a “safe house.” She spent eight weeks there, clearing her mind of the brainwashing and abuse that took place. As her older sister, I was so thrilled to watch her go through the process. While she was still not the same bubbly sister I remembered, she was still getting help to regain her confidence. Before my sister’s experience with this terrible crime, I did not realize the amount of emotional damage human trafficking can do to a victim.
Her physical injuries healed, but her emotional scars will last a lifetime. She is only one of thousands of victims who suffer at the hands of traffickers every day. To the victims of human trafficking, I hope this encourages you to find help and see there is safety on the other side. There is light on the other side, and someone will be there to help you. Always remember the situation you are currently in does not define you. Escape is possible.
For the rest of us readers, stay aware of others around you. You never know the impact you may have on someone. Educating myself about human trafficking was one of the greatest things I could do.
Experiencing the fallout of my sister being a victim of human trafficking has given me more insight on how traffickers work to find their victims. Human trafficking affects not just the victims, but also their family and friends. It might seem impossible for only one person to fight human trafficking. If we as citizens can come together, however, we could bring human trafficking to an end. How, you ask? One victim at a time, just like my sister.