Operation Cross Country is a national program conducted by the FBI whose sole intention is to recover and rehab underage victims of human trafficking. The most recent operation was conducted last month and included several arrests in Myrtle Beach. Nationwide, 84 sexually exploited juveniles were saved and 120 traffickers were arrested. I apologize in advance for putting the following image in your head because it has haunted me ever since I learned of it.
Among the 84 juveniles who were saved was a pair of sisters; one five years old and the other three months old. A friend of the family who was temporarily staying with them offered to sell the two children for sex to an undercover officer for $600.
Pause please. Take a moment to comprehend that. Join me and cry if you feel the need.
In Myrtle Beach, three prostitutes were arrested as part of Operation Cross Country. The average age of the victims rescued was 15-years-old. If you were to hear one story about human sex trafficking, that would be enough to outrage a person. But this is a huge business. Many victims are foreigners, often Eastern European, who come to places like Myrtle Beach and are tricked at the airport and led into a life of slavery.
Charleston is not immune. The US Justice Department released a statement on October 23 that Daewon Warren, a 27-year old from Summerville, was convicted of human trafficking which involved coercing women, including minors, into prostitution. The “coercing” included physical assault and withholding food in exchange for sexual acts.
In trying to write about sex traffickers, I struggled with keeping my thoughts concise. Unlike most of my politically and ethically charged rants, which can be divisive for certain groups of people, my argument against sex trafficking is something most people can agree with. There currently is not an “Alt-pedophile” group that has a powerful leader of which half the country has approved. Obviously human sex trafficking is wrong. So what else is there to say?
As vile as the traffickers are, in the United States we must be especially aware of the market concept. There are customers. This is where I found some fat to chew. A place where we could actually do something.
As I considered the woman who offered a three-month old for sex, I found myself quickly asking what kind of person would do such a thing. I’m sure many of you reading this, likewise, put those monsters on the other side of a line where we place ourselves. They are different. We find comfort in that. We must be careful in our judgments, though. Yes, let’s define evil, but don’t put it somewhere else. There are many people who have done unthinkable things who have been on “our” side of the line.
The issue is immorality. It comes in many forms and we must fight it on every front if we are to defeat it because the permittance of inhumanity in one instance allows it to survive. You cannot declare breast cancer a disease you will fight in your body while defending lung cancer because you are pro-tobacco. Cancer is cancer. You cannot take a moral stand on human trafficking and turn a blind-eye to Native Americans being sprayed with water in sub-zero temperatures because they don’t want an oil pipeline on their land. There is no permissible level of inhumane treatment.
It is up to us to raise each other up as fellow human beings. Not one of us is beyond corruption. Apathy and selfishness are our enemies. We discover the nature of Harvey Weinstein and there is an explosion of shouting. But this didn’t happen overnight. We found a man who bragged about molesting women because of the power he had. We responded by giving him more power. Perhaps this was the lesser of two evils. Even so, what does that say about who we have become as a nation. Is it any wonder that there is a market for sex with children?
We have got to love one another. How long can we survive by hating each other, pushing selfish agendas and supporting oppression because it brandishes the right mascot or flies the right flag? Morality has no flag. It is not married to any political party, sexual orientation, or skin color. It is an unbreakable, universal law screaming to be found … not unlike the slaves being sold in the dark corners of America.
Our leaders have proven incapable of morality. It is the responsibility of every single human being to demand equality, safety, and rescue for those who are oppressed and enslaved. When those demands are not met, we take it upon ourselves to metaphorically sterilize those who create boundaries to salvation and sanctuary.
To fight human trafficking is to fight immorality, indifference, and division.
Make eye contact with a stranger and smile. If someone is hungry, feed them. If someone is cold, clothe them. Be a voice for those without one. If someone is fleeing genocide, give them shelter. Sacrifice your comfort.
This flies in the face of how we are taught to live. We are told to take care of ourselves first. Build walls. Ban people based on religion. Kill those without voices in the name of freedom. There are no sides to morality. There’s just right and wrong. Turn away from anything that resembles hate, inequality, and injustice. Please make a decision today to love. It is the base of all that is good.