SPARK Girl Guest Post: Cameron Diggs on Human Trafficking

This is a guest post by Cameron Diggs. Cameron Diggs is currently a senior at Elisabeth Irwin High School. She has been working for the past year on various projects involving women’s rights, demanding attention to crises that affect women worldwide and advocating for a change in the way the media portrays women and girls.

Whenever we hear the words “human trafficking,” certain images come to mind. Young girls in third-world countries; women being taken from their homes in foreign towns and robbed of their identities; perhaps even cruel, insensitive men raping children and selling them for sex in places that we’ve heard of but have never been to. All of these visions make up the harsh reality of this vicious crime, but what many do not realize is that human trafficking isn’t restricted to places outside of our borders; it isn’t a crime that only affects the impoverished and naïve. Human trafficking is a world-wide issue that has been getting increasingly worse, from the small villages of Punjab, India through the busy streets of Beijing, China and even right here in the United States.

Trafficking has been rampaging through societies around the world for thousands of years but the crime rate for this injustice has been steadily growing throughout the past few decades. Today, the offenders of this horrendous felony disguise themselves as modeling agents, bartenders, owners of massage parlors, or other people in managerial positions who are looking to hire. Once they’ve found their victims, girls ranging in ages 14-22, the traffickers trap and confine these girls into cramped rooms or closed spaces, forcing them to participate in sexual activities with up to 15 men per day and subjecting them to constant physical and emotional abuse.

In response to this repulsive crime, the mock-interview style advocacy video in which I created, entitled “Number One,” explores the horrors of human trafficking and promotes awareness among young women, urging them to recognize the threat that this criminality poses to our society. It is my goal to make, not only girls, but all members of our communities aware of this issue (and realize how close to home it occurs) in order for them to protect themselves from these attacks and reach out to defend others as well – with awareness of this danger comes knowledge, with knowledge comes inspiration, and inspiration makes way for action and change.

It’s crucial for members of our communities to realize that no one looks like a trafficker and that you don’t have to be naïve to fall into a trafficker’s grasp. Human trafficking is a devious crime that hundreds fall victim to every month. In the next year, human trafficking will become the number one crime worldwide. It’s time for all of us to raise awareness, and become more aware ourselves, about the atrocities of this sex trade: we must stop trafficking in its tracks and promote a safer future for girls and women worldwide.

My video is here:

Transcript below the fold.

This post is part of the SPARK blog tour.

SPARK stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge. SPARK is both a Summit and a Movement designed to push back against the increasingly sexualized images of girlhood in the media and create room for whole girls and healthy sexuality. SPARK will engage teen girls to be part of the solution rather than to protect them from the problem.

The SPARK Summit will launch a grassroots movement to support and stand with girls. Today, Friday, October 22nd at Hunter College in New York City, the Summit is a day to speak out, push back on the sexualization of girls, and have fun while igniting a movement for girls’ rights to healthy sexuality. The Summit will give girls between the ages of 14-22 the information and tools they need to become activists, organizers, researchers, policy influencers, and media makers.

The Summit is focused on working with girl leaders and activists to jump start an intergenerational movement. Attendees will be girls (ages 14-22) and those working closely with them. There’s also a virtual Summit so that girls and adults who can’t make it to New York City can participate!

Text: Each year, 14,500 to 17,500 women and children are trafficked within the United States. The average of these victims is 14 years old.

First girl whose identity is concealed: I used to work three jobs to pay all my bills to pay for college. And with one of my jobs, which was selling sunglasses at a mall in Phoenix, a man and a woman came up to me. They looked young, maybe in their twenties. They were well-dressed, too. The man asked if it would be out of place if he said I was pretty, and I was like, no, I mean it was a compliment.

Second girl whose identity is concealed: And then he said that he was a model agent, and that he was looking for some new models in the area. And he asked me if I was interested. I mean, it’s not something I had been wanting to do or anything, but it seemed interesting, and I wouldn’t have to work as much either because I’d be making extra money. So I agreed to meet them at a restaurant after I got off work. There they told me that they were on their way back to their office in California to do some more photo shoots and that they wanted me to go along with them. The man said that I could probably make $1,000 or more, and that I could just try it for three days and see what I thought, and so I went with them.

Third girl whose identity is concealed: The next morning, before we left, they took me to get my hair done and my nails done and my make-up done. It was all really exciting. And then later they started taking pictures of me but they used a cheap disposable camera, and I was a little confused about what was going on, but they said once we got to California I’d be at a photo shoot and they’d be using some really good equipment, and they’d have make-up artists and stuff like that. So I just decided not to worry about it. When we got to California at the airport, they walked up to this car and I was following them, and they just turned around and pushed me in. There were two men already inside. One of them tied up my hands and put tape over my mouth, and told me if I screamed or acted stupid he’d shoot me, so I stayed quiet.

Second girl whose identity is concealed: He goes, “If I were to shoot you right now, where would you want to be shot? In your head or in your back or in your chest?” And then I hear him start messing with his gun. Then he counted to three and pulled the trigger, but I was still alive. I opened my eyes and I just saw him laughing. We drove around for hours, and then the guy who was in the back with me drugged me. I didn’t know where I was or where we were going, and I was just really confused and scared. I remember the car stopping, and then I remember being in some room, and that’s when I heard them say that there was a middle-aged guy in the living room who wanted to take advantage of a 17-year-old girl. The guy walks in and he goes, bend her over, I want to see what I’m working with. And that’s when he started to rape me. Then I see more guys. Four other guys had come into the room, and they all had a turn.

First girl whose identity is concealed: Later that night, the men from the car came back into the room, and they were asking if I was hungry. I told them no. That’s when they put the dog biscuit in my mouth, trying to get me to eat it, but I wouldn’t. They tossed me back into the car, and drove me around to different men, who all forced me to have sex with them. There were about 11 different stops. When we got back to the apartment, they threw me into a small dog kennel and left me there for days. My whole body went numb. The only time they let me out was when there were men waiting for me in the bedroom.

Text: Victims of sex trafficking are often found on the streets or working in establishments that offer commercial sex acts, i.e. brothels, strip clubs, pornography production houses. Such establishments may operate under the guise of massage parlors, escort services, adult bookstores, modeling studios, bars/strip clubs.

By 2010, sex trafficking will be the number one crime worldwide.

27 comments for “SPARK Girl Guest Post: Cameron Diggs on Human Trafficking

  1. October 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    It is very hard to fight for the rights of people trafficked into the US when there is such hatred of ‘illegals’. Especially since a maid or restaurant worker may also be a victim of trafficking even if they are not sexually assaulted.
    Polaris Project is a good organization. The best model I can think of is the one for domestic violence– education and a way out.
    Educating young American women to take back their sexuality from commercialization is a great project and I wish you success, but trafficking is a different issue– connected but not the same.

  2. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    what is a “mock interview style video”?

  3. Jadey
    October 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    I guess this is my naivete talking, but I wasn’t aware that there was a major problem with people not knowing that human trafficking is a huge problem in every country, including “first world” countries. I guess ignorance and lack of information are par for the course, but I supposed I thought that this particular issue had made more headlines than that or something.

  4. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 4:57 am

    It HAS made more headlines than that. It has made many, many more headlines than most abuses of similar scale and brutality. It is a popular “cause” among young idealistic US students with generally no experience with it BECAUSE it is talked about a lot, but also because it provides tons of opportunity for people to feel good about themselves and superior all at the same time.

    And then, instead of decriminalizing migration, decriminalizing prostitution, providing social services and education, and doing other victim-centered things, people decide that its better to keep it illegal so cops and border agents can keep raping people, or even force other countries to make prostitution illegal, round people up and rape them in detention centers, and deny funding for HIV prevention to any org that works with sex workers or prostitutes in any capacity.

    All in the name of fighting trafficking.

    And of course making lie-filled and exploitative documentaries that feed the ego (not necessarily this one, thinking of Born Into Brothels and Prostitutes of God, both of which were protested with very good reason by the people in them).

  5. Bushfire
    October 23, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I definitely think there is a major problem with people not knowing about this. I only read about human trafficking on progressive blogs. I can’t remember seeing anything about human trafficking in mainstream sources. (Although, to be fair, I don’t usually read mainstream sources!)

    But seriously, I know a lot of people who are swimming in privilege who are too busy enjoying their upwardly-mobile lives to care about what happens to less fortunate people.

  6. Jadey
    October 23, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Re-reading my comment this morning, I feel like I came off as subtly criticizing the project as unnecessary somehow. That is not what I meant to do – I was genuinely surprised by the realization of my own perception that knowledge of this issue as being as much a problem in developed nations as within less developed nation was more extensive, probably because most of my exposure to trafficking issues has focused exclusively on the problem as it stands in Canada, my country (where it affects both women and children borne here as well as immigrants and also people smuggled here specifically for the purpose, and predominantly poor people of colour either way). It was a more superficial comment than I would like to have made. My apologies.

  7. Aunti Disestablishmentarian
    October 23, 2010 at 10:33 am

    I haven’t been following legislation changes to punish traffickers more severely than the usual slap on the wrist. Anyone know if this happened?

  8. Elisabeth
    October 23, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Bushfire
    A few years ago (I think 2005) there was a TV miniseries on human trafficking on Lifetime starring Mira Sorvino and Donald Sutherland. I remember it getting lots of press, and I think it won lots of awards. Nicholas Kristoff writes about human trafficking as well in the NY Times.

  9. October 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    WTF? Why is this uncritically posted on a website which claims to support sex worker’s rights? Do you know how few people have actually been found to be involuntarily trafficked in the witchhunt we know as the war vs. “human trafficking”? Also, it is ridiculously sexualized and made salacious and makes us forget the REAL victims of human trafficking, the thousands of victims of labor and service trafficking, who are worked to death on the land or abused by their employers behind closed doors.
    I am NOT trying to devalidate the horrific experience these women had. But to center the problem on a supposed epidemic of sexual human trafficking which DOES NOT EXIST, as fruitless raids in the UK and elsewhere have proven, makes migrant and sex worker women highly vulnerable. As I heard it put lately, ” ‘ rescue from human trafficking’ is the new politically correct term for ‘deportation’.” Just talk to the women of EMPOWER, the Thai sex workers’ rights org, about the horrifying raids they go through in which they are beaten and raped and sent back to Cambodia or Laos, only to have to go through the horrible cost and effort of getting back to Thailand again.

  10. AJB
    October 24, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    It’s worth noting that in the US immigration authorities and local law enforcement often punish the victims of human trafficking because of their undocumented status.

    Read the following:
    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/04/19/us-victims-trafficking-held-ice-detention
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2009/12/16/80720/human-trafficking-victims-often.html
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2009/12/14/80588/sex-slaves-often-victimized-twice.html
    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/special/immigration/6129019.html

    Here’s the breakdown:

    The federal government has spent seven years and tens of millions of dollars striving to save foreign women exploited in sweatshops or sold as sex slaves in America — yet only about half have gotten special visas for victims willing to help prosecute traffickers, according to a Houston Chronicle review.

    In Houston, home to one of the nation’s most successful anti-trafficking task forces and a major transit point for human trafficking, just 67 of about 120 women rescued after a massive raid in 2005 have obtained the so-called “T visas” to help them rebuild their lives.

    One woman, who is still without a visa, said she was locked up in the Newtown County jail in East Texas after her rescue but found she had nowhere to go after her release. She told the Chronicle: “My apartment was empty. Everything had been taken … It’s hard to know what to do.”

    Nationwide, 1,924 people got services from the U.S. Department of Justice as trafficking victims from 2004 to 2007. Only 709 people got visas during those same three years, immigration records show.

  11. AJB
    October 24, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    It’s worth noting that in the US immigration authorities and local law enforcement often punish the victims of human trafficking because of their undocumented status.

    Read the following:
    HRW
    Kansas City Star
    Kansas City Star
    Houston Chronicle

    Here’s the breakdown:

    The federal government has spent seven years and tens of millions of dollars striving to save foreign women exploited in sweatshops or sold as sex slaves in America — yet only about half have gotten special visas for victims willing to help prosecute traffickers, according to a Houston Chronicle review.

    In Houston, home to one of the nation’s most successful anti-trafficking task forces and a major transit point for human trafficking, just 67 of about 120 women rescued after a massive raid in 2005 have obtained the so-called “T visas” to help them rebuild their lives.

    One woman, who is still without a visa, said she was locked up in the Newtown County jail in East Texas after her rescue but found she had nowhere to go after her release. She told the Chronicle: “My apartment was empty. Everything had been taken … It’s hard to know what to do.”

    Nationwide, 1,924 people got services from the U.S. Department of Justice as trafficking victims from 2004 to 2007. Only 709 people got visas during those same three years, immigration records show.

  12. Lidor
    October 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    I still have a difficult time grasping the fact that these things are happening right here. When I watched the movie “Very Young Girls”, the commercial sexual exploited girls were talking about the areas that they worked in. Some of these streets were places I’ve been to countless times. Who thinks about sexually exploited children when they think about Times Square? I know I don’t. Our society is oblivious about what is happening right here, in our own neighborhoods. I believe that people such as you, Cameron, and organizations like GEMS are raising awareness for this issue. Being aware is the first step to action.

  13. RD
    October 26, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    This is another thing that is very important to read on the way local law enforcement “handles” trafficking – abusively, toward the victims and toward sex workers who work alongside them.

    GEMS, fyi, does a lot of good things BUT they are also very shaming and religious and they are tied into the criminal “justice” system (ie often not voluntary, and dependent on it being illegal to get clients). I think the work needs to be done without those aspects.

  14. Ian
    October 26, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    There are many ways to raise awareness. Look at the way that so many communicate over blogs like this one and many others. In today’s world there are so many forums for each individual to express his or herself but all of that is meaningless if we don’t look at the right things. If we don’t focus on things like human sex trafficking and the poor souls who fall victim to it we are only positioning ourselves so it can become worse. For those of you who say it is not a problem who is to say that it won’t be if left unchecked. And if you do see the gravity behind the situation you know that action now is the only thing that will help prevent for the future

  15. Julie
    October 26, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    This project, I feel is a prime example of how ordinary people can turn knowledge into action and awareness. I think that this project is a good way to show people how human trafficking happens not only in other countries but also right here in front of our eyes. More people who are aware of the issue creates a greater chance than atleast one of them will take action. Not only does awareness lead to action, it also creates less risk that someone will fall into the trap of being trafficked. Blogs such as feministe as well as other online communities such as facebook and twitter are excellent ways for people to spread their knowledge to other people. Hopefully, this awareness will spread until everyone becomes aware.

  16. RD
    October 27, 2010 at 2:58 am

    Given the kind of “action” we see from misguided and sometimes malicious “saviors” I disagree. Nothing about us without us.

  17. Josephine E
    October 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I’ve been excitedly watching this thread hoping for a thought provoking dialog between the author and others and some of the sex worker/sex worker advocates, but I’m confused that nobody has addressed the concerns brought up by RD and others.

  18. RD
    October 29, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Yes please do engage! I will moderate my tone.

  19. October 29, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Nothing about us without us.

    But you just don’t get it! You’ve been brainwashed! Be quiet while the adults are talking!

    /sarcasm

    Human trafficking is a very real problem, but you can’t solve it without paying attention to worker’s rights (and yes, sex-workers are workers, and it always angers me when I have to point that out). What about internal trafficking, for example? It can be as simple and brutal as a case of sex-workers being shut up in one of those high-end brothels in a city, and not being allowed to leave (their passports are held hostage, etc.). I know it happens in Moscow, in Chicago, etc. People are not aware that there can literally be a prison right next door to them – though it may not have bars on the windows. And the criminalization of sex-work aids the criminals themselves.

  20. CJ
    October 30, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Bravo for having dialog about the massive occurrence of rape against juveniles (no such things as prostitution for juveniles as their use by adults is rape). I’ve liked Shared Hope, a nonprofit that not only rescues victims and houses/trains them for work in other trades, but exposes the DEMAND side of the issue. I like the Swedish model that decriminalizes female sex workers but johns and pimps are criminalized. I’ve read that 100,000 American juveniles are sex slaved each year, and maybe three times that many juveniles imported to American for sex trafficking. Organized crime profits from drugs, weapons, prostitution, porno and sex trafficking, right? IF the internet has allowed a $10-15 Billion dollar per year porn business, how has that driven the DEMAND side of the sex industry equation? Follow the money, that’s what I’d say. Treat sex and labor slaves as equally deserving populations to protect. IF the internet cannot guarantee that under-18 year olds are prevented from accessing porn illegally, and IF the internet providers cannot guarantee that porn images are of consensual participants and not filmed sex acts of a prostituted victim then perhaps we need to undertake a Female Human Rights movement that taxes the daylights out of porn to gain income for funding research and enforcement of existing laws against juvenile rape. Go girls, do not be dissuaded from having a very public awareness campaign, especially as it draws attention to the prevealence of male buyers of illegal flesh. Of course, females are also oppressing young victims, but, few johns are women. Exactly who buys underage sex rape victims and why aren’t they prosecuted for rape?

  21. RD
    October 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Natalia: But you just don’t get it! You’ve been brainwashed! Be quiet while the adults are talking!/sarcasmHuman trafficking is a very real problem, but you can’t solve it without paying attention to worker’s rights (and yes, sex-workers are workers, and it always angers me when I have to point that out). What about internal trafficking, for example? It can be as simple and brutal as a case of sex-workers being shut up in one of those high-end brothels in a city, and not being allowed to leave (their passports are held hostage, etc.). I know it happens in Moscow, in Chicago, etc. People are not aware that there can literally be a prison right next door to them – though it may not have bars on the windows. And the criminalization of sex-work aids the criminals themselves.  (Quote this comment?)

    Yeah what you said. :)

  22. RD
    October 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    CJ…gah. Such reactionary ideological wording and thoughts are hard to respond to (and read)…I will respond more later.

  23. CJ
    October 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    RD…I honestly invite dialog. I am myself a former sex worker, raised two girls as solo mom and both graduated or attending college, and am very grounded. I welcome opportunity to converse w/o generic, “reactionary ideological” language. I am also former licensed foster mother whose foster daughter was trafficked as a 16 year old, taken to San Francisco and sold. Yes, I can also add having a history of gender trauma from my early years as well, but did not explore healing until after daughters born so it all caused me to have a very different opinion of this topic at age 57 then I did at 23 when I favored de-criminalization of prostitution as I see the decades roll on and have gained self-awareness. Dogma doesn’t sit well with me either, and if I’m guilty I’ll honestly reflect on your reply to me. What is “reactionary ideological” about my supporting the Swedish model decriminalizing sex workers but keeping johns and pimps accountable with laws, for instance?

  24. RD
    October 30, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Ok CJ, I’m sorry if I misjudged you. To be honest it wasn’t even the whole “demand” bit that got to me most. It was saying things like “buyers of illegal flesh”. As a former sex worker, do you really not find that phrasing dehumanizing and gross? Same with “buying girls”. Reading that is sickening, the phrasing is degrading, and I don’t know why anyone would want to use that kind of language unless they were trying to stir up that kind of reaction, ie fear-mongering. I have a hard time engaging with anyone who phrases/frames things like that, because it makes me feel like they want me and others like me too feel degraded, which I think is the opposite of what anyone with good intentions here should want.

    I appreciate very much that you want to engage and have a dialogue here so I will try to put that aside for now.

    I disagree with you that all youth in the sex trade are trafficked. Many are, and what happened to your foster daughter is so awful and must be so painful for you. But many of these kids are runaways, who learn how to hustle on their own or from other kids, for their immediate survival needs. (and many kids are having sex for drugs, even kids who live at home with their families). Kids having survival sex actually DO need the demand. They wouldn’t be doing it if they had other options for the most part. People don’t like this argument because it makes them uncomfortable but its true. Yes we need competent social services so so badly, but in a world where kids get DENIED social services for being in the sex trade (or other marginalized statuses) or are subject to worse within the system than outside it, where the system can be just as much of a problem, where kids are even being denied medical care solely for being involved in the sex trade, why would you want to take away the one option someone has left to turn to? And worse here we are making them criminals, through prostitution laws, drug laws, “quality of life” laws, in general by the criminalization of poverty. So I think it really does kids like that a disservice, to see them all as trafficked. And, most of all, the kids who are trafficked! Deserve VICTIM-CENTERED responses. I think this is an important point that can get lost. These youth know what they need, and people need to listen to what they are saying. Paying attention to organizations by and for youth in the sex trade is a good start- YWEP in Chicago is the one I know of, I hope there can be others.

    For similar reasons I do oppose “end demand” as a response to adult prostitution. For people who are not trafficked (even if say thety have been in the past, or not), what you are trying to do is drive them out of business. For so many people having sex for money, this means homelessness, hunger, an inability to access transition, etc. For a woman, homelessness puts you at a HUGE risk of being raped. And do you think that’s a point where the sex trade will just exit, comfortably exit, someones life? And, you know, it is not your decision to make, and people don’t look kindly on “saviors” who just want to drive away business. And again, victims of trafficking deserve SO much better than the kinds of horrors the anti-trafficking industry is enacting on them, all over the world.

  25. B
    November 1, 2010 at 7:28 am

    I have to ask…I keep seeing the statistic that says by 2010 sex trafficking will be the number one crime worldwide. Can anyone define “number one” is it due to money? I just want to make sure I am clear on this…since this is no longer taking a second place seat to drug trade I am assuming that money is where they get the number one crime statistic.

  26. RD
    November 1, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I don’t think that is based on anything, I think that is just some bullshit thing they say.

  27. RD
    November 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Anbody still here??? … :(

Comments are closed.