There’s been quite a bit of criticism lately regarding what the media is, or is not, covering. It’s safe to say that such criticism will always exist, especially given Americans’ right to free speech. Today, the news and media markets have expanded, allowing for any individual with Internet access to express their opinions for millions upon millions to see. Controversy over the Trayvon Martin case and the Kony 2012 video and their prevalence in social media have skyrocketed, yet discourse on the issues themselves seems to have ceased to exist almost as soon as it began.
I am not interested in providing yet another argument as to why social media is being overused and abused, or which one topic should rise to the top of the trending list on Twitter. Instead, I am interested in the implications on human life that exist when we choose not to tweet about certain topics or post a link to our Facebook walls.
Today, there are more slaves in the world than there have ever been in human history, including during the entire Transatlantic Slave Trade. There are presently 27 million slaves in the world, about 80 percent of whom are victims of sex trafficking and, contrary to popular belief, they are not solely in the developing world. By casting off 27 million people as an issue of the developing world, Americans are able to turn a blind eye to the $10 billion sex trafficking industry in this very country.
Perhaps the reason as to why this is not a “trending” topic is ignorance. Perhaps most Americans — college students included — are simply unaware of this issue. In that case, I think awareness and education are some of the most important things any student can do to fight human sex trafficking. Once aware of the issue, however, it is likely that interest will slowly fade, as it has with Kony 2012 and as it likely will with Trayvon Martin. In this likely event, action is what is truly needed.
Presently, 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds are treated as criminals if they are involved in prostitution, yet studies show that the vast majority of these prostitutes are victims of trafficking. Average entry into prostitution occurs around the age of 13, dispelling the popular belief that prostitutes sell themselves by choice. Sex trafficking has been defined by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act” through the use of force, fraud or coercion. Now, more than ever, there is a need for Americans to become involved in the fight for justice for victims of sex trafficking, especially in the fight for safe harbor inclusion in the law. Historically, efforts to stop sex trafficking have consisted of punishing the victim. Rarely, if ever, have efforts been made to bring justice for victims and punish the true perpetrators of these crimes — the pimps and the consumers — and this must change. On Thursday, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be a letter-writing event in room B770 of the School of Social Work in which students and community members will have the opportunity to come at any time that evening to write letters directly to their congressional representatives. This is a simple and easy way for individuals to make a difference.
Currently, there is only one student organization fighting for justice for those who are victimized by sex trafficking. International Justice Mission is doing wonderful things here on campus to educate students and seek justice, but it cannot do this work alone. Across history, some of the greatest revolutions for political and social reform have begun on college campuses, and this is our chance to spark that change once again. A voice will fall flat when spoken alone. It is the role of the populous to make change, and united, we as a campus can fight for justice for victims of domestic human sex trafficking.
Samantha Vredeveld is an LSA junior.