Human Trafficking: ‘Where We Think It Can’t Happen Is Where It’s Happening’February 27, 2020
Say “prostitute” and the word often conjures up certain images, along with many assumptions about the individual.
“We’re quick to judge what we see, but we have no idea of their back story,” said Nikeidra Battle-DeBarge, coordinator of the Manasseh Project, an outreach program of Wedgwood Christian Services working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Language is important, and that is why Battle-DeBarge prefers the term “human trafficking” when talking about the multi-billion-dollar sex industry that, she said, is second only to drugs. It’s a low-risk business with high rewards, a pimp once told her.
“Calling anyone a prostitute perpetuates violence against them,” said Battle-DeBarge. “They were locked into this life early. Something happened to them at some point that (led them to believe) this is their only option or the only thing they can do to survive.”
Battle-DeBarge spoke Jan. 10 at a professional development seminar at Greenville High School, sponsored by the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) and attended by nearly 150 school employees from districts throughout Montcalm County and participants from a variety of community service agencies.
“Human trafficking is happening across this country, not only in our largest cities but also in our small rural communities. The more we learn, and the more we understand, the greater our opportunities to protect people from its dangers,” said Penny Dora, director of communications/administrative services for the MAISD. “From a school perspective, the highest risk age groups are school-aged children, so this presentation was especially important for us to host.”
Human trafficking includes both labor trafficking, a form of “modern-day slavery,” and sex trafficking, Battle-DeBarge said. Her presentation focused on the latter, especially the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), which involves sexual abuse or exploitation of a child for money, food, shelter, drugs or protection.
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