A friend, Vicky, and I walked in her neighborhood, near her house. A car pulled up and the driver called us over. He asked for directions. It took a few seconds before I noticed; he was exposed and stroking himself.
When the man drove away, Vicky and I ran and hid behind bushes. Peeking through the greenery, we watched as the man circled the block. He slowed, looking for us.
Petrified, we stayed out of sight. We waited for the man to drive away again before we ran back to Vicky’s house. Her mother called the police and when they showed up, they asked us questions.
Looking back, I think we were awfully lucky. Crouching behind those bushes, in essence, made us sitting ducks. At the time, I weighed less than 90 pounds and, in my memory, the man who exposed himself to us looms large. The scary truth is that story could've ended differently.
Some kids are not as lucky. That unpleasant experience occurred just a few years before Etan Patz disappeared and he, and other missing children, appeared on milk cartons.
Those disturbing memories were elicited with the release of the movie, Room, based on the novel written by Emma Donoghue.
(I read the book, Room, a few years back and recommend it.)
The story is about a mother and son held captive in a small room. The book is fiction but it is based on a true story.
Here’s the thing that many people don’t know: Slavery exists today.
And it exists in many countries, including the United States. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states. Children are sometimes forced to work in brothels, in sweatshops, in houses as domestic servants, in wars as child soldiers, on farms and in strip clubs.
Putting a stop to all forms of child trafficking is critical to UNICEF's work around the world.
Stop Child Trafficking Now (also called SCTNow) is a nonprofit international organization that does advocacy work attempting to bring an end to child trafficking. SCTNow targets those who sexually abuse children and aims to prosecute and convict them.
Years ago, I read The Slave Next Door by Kevin Bals and Ron Soodalter. The Slave Next Door explores human trafficking and slavery that exists in the United States today.
The book is a call to action, letting us know what we can do to bring an end to these horrific crimes.