Human trafficking has been a global issue for many years. Children in third world countries are coerced into bondage and forced to perform manual labor as well as various forms of sexual slavery for their owner’s personal monetary gains.
However, what is not as well-known is the presence of these practices not only within the borders of our nation, but also within the borders of our state.
Mark Elam, the executive director of Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans, gave an emotional presentation in Willard Hall on Wednesday evening.
OATH is a non-profit organization based in Oklahoma that actively takes part in fighting human bondage within the state.
The goal of this presentation was simple: to raise awareness of the issue that receives little to no public recognition in Oklahoma.
John Foubert, a professor in the department of educational studies at OSU, put the event together with the help of OSU graduate student Sasha Carter. Foubert said he plans to hold a similar presentation on the topic every semester.
“There has been a dramatic rise in victims of sexual trafficking, and it’s flying under the radar,” Foubert said. “Awareness is the key, and it is extremely important to start a first step in the right direction.”
Many of these horrific practices are taking place not too far from the place we call home. In his speech, Elam said there was a case in Edmond where 10 12-year-old boys were servicing grown men for $1,000 each.
“Human trafficking is the No. 1 crime in the United States right now,” Elam said. “It is the most profitable and is the fastest-growing crime within our borders.”
The locality of this issue was greatly stressed during the presentation, noting that OATH has run more than 100 cases in the Oklahoma City area, at least one in every county in Oklahoma as well as two in Stillwater – and that’s just the cases that have been reported.
According to the statistics given in the presentation, 200,000 children are sexually exploited every year, and a child is reported missing every 20 seconds in the U.S. Furthermore, the Department of Justice reported in 2003 the largest number of human trafficking survivors are found in California, New York, Texas and Oklahoma.
Recently on campus, the International Justice Mission put on a display titled “Loose Change to Loosen Chains.” Many students walked around populated areas of campus wearing chains around their bodies asking for donations.
“We are using these donations to help fund investigations and to help in any way that we can and every chance we get,” IJM Secretary Angela Colwell said. “This topic is in its awareness stage and that’s exactly what we are trying to promote.”
The people of OATH and IJM are asking the same thing: for people to get involved. For more information, go to www.oathcoalition.org or speak with an IJM member on campus.