When I was in second grade, as recess was ending, a boy in my class, asked me to meet him near the pencil sharpener. The pencil sharpener was mounted on wood cubbies in the back of the classroom. The section was enclosed by cardboard boxes decorated with RIF (Reading Is Fun) signs, and was known as the Reading Area. I met the boy there, and quite unexpectedly, he kissed me.
I don’t really remember much about the incident (Read: Repressed Memories) except for the fact that I was totally surprised. But in retrospect, if I had to pick a feeling, it would be disgust. Powerless, I didn't do anything about it.
Last week, I attended an event sponsored by the UJA Federation of N.Y. and this "kissing memory" was triggered when a psychologist told the story of how a boy in her five year-old daughter’s class kissed her without consent. Her daughter smacked the boy across the face, and went on a rant. “You can’t touch me.” She was explicit. “Not my breasts or my vagina or my butt. You can’t touch me anywhere.” Empowered, she told her teacher what happened.
Today, we aware of horror stories that we would’ve found unfathomable in the '70s. Today, every thirty seconds another person becomes a victim of sex trafficking. (Read: Slavery Today.)
The psychologist who spoke at the event had prepared her daughter, and as a result, her child felt confident in the moment she was mistreated. She wasn’t afraid or ashamed. She knew unequivocally, she’d been violated.
The UJA sponsored the event I attended for a reason. It was called: Sex Trafficking: It’s Our Issue.
I know you’re thinking that sex trafficking doesn’t relate to you or your family. But the fact is that human trafficking affects people from every culture, race, religion, socio-economic background and gender. (Yes, it happens to boys too.)
At the event, a production titled, A Day in the Life, was put on. Actors revealed painful, true, stories through individual monologues.
An eleven year-old girl was raped by her brother, a boy who went to Hebrew school, and was the apple of his mother’s eye. Depressed, and thinking so little of herself, she was an easy target; and ultimately at fourteen, was raped again in a park. Her rapists bribed her. They told her that if she didn’t come to a hotel on 8th Ave. after school, they would tell her parents what she did, and that she was a hoe.
Fearful, she went. She was raped repeatedly in that hotel room every day after school for years by a number of men. Her pimps told her that if she didn’t keep their secret and continue to show up and perform, they would kill her parents and rape her sister.
You might ask, how could her parents not know what was going on. But if we’re honest, here’s another question—how could they possibly know such a thing?
In another tale, we learn of a father who online bought a fourteen year-old Asian girl from Back Page. When he was caught, he admitted to betraying his family, and claimed he felt remorse for that part of his offense; but somehow believed he hadn’t done anything wrong as far as the girl went because he was helping her out— she needed the money.
A college-age girl came to America to study music. Walking on 5th Ave, she was approached by a good-looking young man. He proceeded to keep her chained to a bed for eight months, locked in a closet for days on end, before she was able to escape.
Remember these are not fictitious stories. They are true. This is known as Modern Day Slavery; and it is rampant.
I know this is a frightening topic; one we’d like to look away from.
But we can’t.
It’s in our backyards.
Human Trafficking in New York City is more prevalent than you might imagine, and we need to pay attention.
We need to spread awareness.
Just as the psychologist I mentioned did, we need to talk to our children and prepare them.
Here’s a frightening fact:
Pimps go to malls. They watch and they wait.
Perpetrators tell a young girl she is beautiful. If she looks him in the eye and says thank you, with confidence, he let’s her walk away.
But if she blushes, acts shy, and is unable to meet his gaze, he knows...
She’s the one.
For more information regarding support for UJA-Federation of New York’s efforts to serve victims of sex trafficking and raise awareness in the Jewish community, please contact Lauren Grunstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-836-1328.