Tag Archive: sex trafficking

September, 2019 Monthly Reflection

September 12, 2019

Those Who Don’t Survive. . . And Those Who Do

By Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA

Lisa McCormick and her son Jeffrey

Most often we speak about the “survivors” of human trafficking when we reference people who have escaped the violent control of their perpetrators. Less often do we talk about those who do not survive, those who have died at the hands of their traffickers. This story is about Lisa McCormick and her son Jeffrey. Jeffrey did not survive the events which ultimately resulted in his death. With a home in rural Wisconsin, Jeffrey was a 17-year-old boy recruited into a sex trafficking ring out of Madison, WI and exploited until his death in September 2016. His mother, Lisa, has survived the horrific reality of losing a son who was trafficked.

Lisa never dreamed that this would happen in their family. The family moved from Alabama to Wisconsin when Jeff was in the first grade. In his rural school, Jeff tried hard to “fit in” over the years. Although making efforts to succeed in sports, it was not his thing. In middle grades, he was their best dancer, and for that he was bullied and picked on by other boys. Jeff became anxious and depressed. There were angry and violent days when he started cutting himself. At the age of eleven (6thgrade) he began using marijuana and by 7th and 8th grade was experimenting with drugs such as Triple C, an over-the-counter medication for colds. Taking 20, 40 and 60 pills at a time, Jeff developed severe gastrointestinal issues. In grade 9 he began stealing meds from his father’s medicine cabinet. Even more lethal drugs like meth, cocaine, and LSD became a regular diet for him. Changes in his skin, dry hair, panic attacks, and hallucinations were easy to see. He could no longer verbalize his needs.

In Jeff McCormick’s short life as a vulnerable youth, there are stories about running away, becoming homeless, getting picked up by men who promised him good things, but who forced him to have sex with women and dance in gentlemen’s clubs in order to make money to pay back his traffickers. He was missing for weeks, kept in a drug stupor and physically violated in various ways evidenced by the burn marks on his body. Although 17 years in age, he was considered and treated like an adult by law enforcement and transferred numerous times in and out of treatment centers, jails, shelters, and hospitals. The traffickers began threatening his mother on social media with verbal violence while insisting on knowing Jeff’s court dates. Lisa, his mother, knew nothing about what Jeff had been through—the fact that he had been sold on Craig’s list, forced to work in Sioux City, Iowa, overdosed in a hospital and eventually released to his mother.

In June of 2016, Jeff was at home as a very violent and disturbed son. He continued to run away, returning to Iowa on one occasion. A few months later on September 30, 2016, Lisa was notified by the sheriff that Jeff had died of an overdose of fentanyl laced with other substances. During funeral preparations, an envelope was sent to the home with photos of physical violence by the traffickers showing how they exercised control over Jeff. Two traffickers stalked the family by putting their pictures on social media, showing up at the funeral visitation and at the cemetery. Lisa states that she “lost it” at that point, vowing that she would do all in her power to prevent other families from going through such an ordeal.

Lisa has turned this experience into a personal mission to help others. She has made it her life’s purpose to share her family’s story so others understand trafficking and how easily our vulnerable children can get caught up in it. She speaks on the topics of sex trafficking, drug addiction, bullying, acceptance, and her faith throughout her personal journey as a parent survivor of a sex trafficking victim. She educates groups to encourage them to know the signs of at risk youth, to not be afraid to talk to them and show them care and to give them someone to trust. Walking alongside parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others, Lisa is a living beacon of hope so that they are not alone in this journey. She is a member of the Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking Advisory Council and is featured in the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families documentary film, It Happens Here, on youth sex trafficking in Wisconsin – soon to be released along with a school curriculum on human trafficking in 2020. She is a frequent speaker throughout Wisconsin for educational and professional organizations as well as at schools, churches and public awareness events. Lisa has been instrumental in developing a program with the Janesville, WI police department called SLOTH (Supporting Loved Ones through Hardships). Over the long term, Lisa’s continuing efforts will be evident in the development of Destiny Center in Juneau County, a residential home for girls in recovery from addictions and trafficking.[i]

When the author of this column was educated by survivors of human trafficking in Washington D.C. while serving on the White House Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (2012-2013), survivors would convey that the life expectancy of trafficked individuals, particularly women, was between 37-50 years of age. The reasons were obvious: their bodies were spent and worn out from multiple rapes, beatings, from diseases resulting from sexual contact, multiple forced abortions and relentless work under inhuman and illegal conditions. One author states that “The average life expectancy of someone in commercial sexual exploitation is seven years. Start at 14, dead by 21. The mortality rate for someone in commercial sexual exploitation is 40 times higher than for a non-exploited person of the same age.”[ii]

The calculations are brutal, yet believable, especially when considering U.S. Life Expectancy by gender and race or ethnicity. (See the attached chart.) The data is informative and convincing that human trafficking creates a major health issue in the world. Moreover, it is a life issue which begs a place at the heart of our moral reasoning and action.

And then there are the traffickers themselves – Jeffrey Epstein, for example! He didn’t survive either! But for reasons altogether different. And that would be another story.

           

[i]These details of the story about Jeff McCormick, including the picture, are used with the permission of Lisa McCormick, his mother.

[ii]http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/kathleen-sebelius-gruesome-moral-calculus

 

Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon

August 8, 2019

Children’s trafficking and exploitation is a widespread phenomenon that is causing enormous suffering throughout the world. It can take several forms such as forced labor, sexual exploitation and child begging, among other practices

Child trafficking and exploitation are again in the news after the Wall Street trader Jeffrey Epstein was charged on July 8 with sex trafficking crimes involving dozens of minors. Among the latest accusation is one by Jennifer Araoz, 32, who said that Epstein raped her when she was 15, and she had been working at his home giving him massages. After the incident, Araoz became profoundly depressed, had anxiety and panic attacks, and had to drop out of school shortly afterward. Her case is just one of the many cases being investigated against the New York financial adviser.

Children’s trafficking and exploitation is a widespread phenomenon that is causing enormous suffering throughout the world. It can take several forms such as forced labor, sexual exploitation and child begging, among other practices. It is estimated that 4 million women and girls worldwide are bought and sold each year either into marriage, prostitution or slavery. Over one million children enter the sex trade every year. Although most are girls, boys are also victims.

The extent of the problem

A report presented to the European Parliament showed that in Egypt criminal gangs kidnap African migrants and subject them to the worst kind of abuses, and reclaim steep ransoms from their families. It is estimated that between 25,000 to 30,000 people were trafficked in the Sinai Peninsula between 2009 and 2013.

In the United States, as many as 50,000 women and children from Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe are brought to the country and forced to work as servants or prostitutes. The US government has prosecuted cases involving hundreds of victims. In other countries where this problem is frequent, the prosecution rate is lower.

Child sex tourism is an aspect of this worldwide phenomenon, and it is concentrated in Asia and Central and South America. According to UNICEF, 10,000 girls annually enter Thailand from neighboring countries and end up as sex workers. Thailand’s Health System Research Institute reports that children make up 40% of those working in prostitution in Thailand. And between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepali girls are transported across the border to India each year and end up in commercial sex work in Mumbai or New Delhi.

Commercial sexual exploitation

Although the greatest number of children forced to work as prostitutes is in Asia, Eastern European children from countries such as Russia, Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic, are increasingly unwilling victims.  

As a social and pathological phenomenon, prostitution involving children does not show signs of abating. In many cases, not only individual traffickers but also organized groups kidnap children and sell them into prostitution, with border officials and police frequently serving as accomplices.

Because of their often undocumented status, language deficiencies and lack of legal protection, kidnapped children are particularly vulnerable in the hands of smugglers or corrupt and heartless government officials. “Trafficking is a very real threat to millions of children around the world, especially to those who have been driven from their homes and communities without adequate protection,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a growing problem worldwide. The reasons include increased trade across borders, poverty, unemployment, low status of girls, lack of education (including sex education) of children and their parents, inadequate legislation, poor law enforcement and the eroticization of children by the media, a phenomenon increasingly seen in industrialized countries.

Consequences of sexual exploitation of children

Social and cultural reasons force children into entering the sex trade in different regions of the world. In many cases, children from industrialized countries enter the sex trade because they are fleeing abusive homes. In countries of Eastern and Southern Africa, children who became orphans as a result of AIDS frequently lack the protection of caregivers and become, therefore, more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.

To read the full story by Dr. César Chelala on Common Dreams: Click Here