By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Senior Communications Specialist
|Ginger Grissom, executive director of Wesley House Community Center|
Meridian, Ginger Grissom stays involved and available around the clock to address matters on human trafficking. The center, which is supported by the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, houses several agencies that address social issues, like the East Mississippi Sexual Assault Crisis Center that supports victims of this crime. In the days leading up to National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11, Grissom writes about disturbing statistics and the headway United Methodists and the state of Mississippi are making in prevention and awareness of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a crime that dehumanizes a person through force, fraud or coercion. Many are misled in believing that it happens only in other countries, but the truth is, it happens right here in Mississippi, today, right now! Did you know that human trafficking is the fastest growing organized crime, second only to drug trafficking, and is expected to be number one within five years? It's true, and it is happening fast, due to the fact that unlike drug traffickers, who sell their product one time, a human trafficker can sell their victim/slave over and over, receiving up to 20 times what they originally paid for the girl or boy. Sadly, human trafficking not only involves sex and labor, but also organ harvesting on the black market. Traffickers are increasingly trafficking pregnant women for their newborns who are being sold on the black market as well. But, approximately 75-80 percent of human trafficking is for sex.
The FBI estimates that 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America, ranging in age from 9-19, with the average being 11 years old. Human trafficking is a crime that is fueled by poverty, as well as minority and gender discriminations. Statistics are inconclusive, due to the fact that it is a "hidden" crime, with confusing and misnamed roles, victims being arrested and jailed for prostitution or theft, while the perpetrator goes free. FBI reports that many victims are from "good" families!
According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, both in the United States and around the world. It is the only area of transnational crime in which women are significantly represented both as victims, as perpetrators, and as activists fighting this crime.
What can I do? (You might ask!) Well, praise God for the United Methodist Women, who have bravely stepped out and chosen Human Trafficking as one of our missions. (Click here for details on UMW efforts.) Coincidentally, it's important to note that the Polaris Project named Mississippi as one of four states that were most improved last year for passing legislation to combat sex and labor trafficking and support survivors. (View the Polaris Project report here.)
Continued prayer is appreciated.
If you feel someone is in a trafficking situation, please alert law enforcement as soon as possible. If you have questions or suspicions about a potential human trafficking situation, feel free to contact Wesley House Community Center at 601-485-4736 and ask for me or Mary Ann Shook. We have a plethora of information and resources that can assist you.
For more information about Wesley House Community Center, click here. Click here to read a previous story from The Circuit Riderabout a counselor of the East Mississippi Community Center who tells the story of a young person who was trafficked.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed annually on the 11 day of January. This day originated in 2011 through President Barack Obama's declaration of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.