Local SAAMtastic Events
One of the most exciting things about Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is all of the local events and happenings that honor the occasion. Today, I was able to take a break from my desk and head over to a local college for a speaking event on human trafficking. Theresa Flores, who survived human trafficking as a teen living in an affluent Michigan suburb, described her own experiences of sexual violence, exploitation, and control as well as some ideas she has about how to address this problem.
Theresa reminded everyone in attendance that there is no one face for sex trafficking. It is not something that only happens far away or in distant countries. Human trafficking happens in our neighborhoods. This fact was a particular point of emphasis, and so she shared several facts that really stuck with me. In the U.S. runaway or “throwaway” youth are at particular risk for sexual exploitation, 35% of trafficked children are sold into sex slavery by their family members, and 62% are tricked into it. She shared that an estimated 100,000 minors are currently involved in sex trafficking right now. Being in a state with a lot of highways or on the border of the country can make the state a leader in trafficking crime.
Theresa describes trafficking as modern day slavery. It involves using violence and coercion to force another person into sex work or other labor for profit. For this reason, she emphasizes that we need to make the connection between our language and culture and the perpetuation of this crime. First, she stressed that using terms like “child prostitute” mislabels the problem. Children do not choose to sell sex. She also stressed that we live in a culture that inappropriately glamorizes pimps, showing images of Halloween costumes for both children and adults and examples of shows and movies that glorify the lives of “pimps’n’hoes.” Sexualizing children’s toys and presenting violent and abusive images in advertising help to promote a culture that tolerates sexual exploitation of children. Theresa suggested that anybody could critically question these messages and that this is a starting point in ending human trafficking.
I loved having the opportunity to attend a local event and hear some critical discussion on ending sexual violence today. If you think this is just the kind of SAAM-infused activity you need, be sure and check out what’s happening in your area this month. Once you figure it out, consider submitting it to our National Calendar of events. This way, others can learn about it too!