It’s a $35 billion industry, but it’s underground with eyes on our children.
“I was told it existed,” says Reverend Brian McVey from St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in West Davenport. “I didn’t believe it and was proved wrong.”
“Everyone acts like this just started happening, but it’s been happening forever,” says Shana Goodwin, a survivor of human trafficking.
It can happen to anybody – anybody of any age, any educational background, and any ethnicity or race is at risk, says Rev. McVey.
However, McVey explains that 50% of the victims of human trafficking are children.
“If you go off the Department of Illinois and the Department of Iowa, Iowa is going to have about 4,000 youths run away this year,” he says. “Illinois will have about 26,000. Somewhere between 20% and 25% will be attempted to be captured by a slaver, so you’re talking about 1,400 Iowa youths at risk and 5,000-6,000 Illinois youth at risk and that’s an every year continuing flow.”
“I ended up on the streets with a pimp,” says Shana, who entered the human trafficking world at 12 years old. “I was trafficked for 10 years all over the United States.”
Shana’s story – as well as others – brought together doctors, nurses, and other medical professions from all over the Quad Cities on Friday, January 10, 2014 to learn about human trafficking and learn how to identify the victims if they come to the hospital.
Both Shana and Rev. McVey say more of these conferences are happening across the country.
“This education and awareness is very important today, because if we had this when I was growing up maybe I would have not made it to 39 years old on the streets,” Shana says. “I have 167 arrests on my record, a 6th grade education, and had never held down a job before.”
Shana is now working to put that past behind her. She spent two years in the Magdalene Program and now works for the organization’s social enterprise, called Thistle Farms. The brand includes handmade, natural bath and body products for women with the mission of helping women who’ve survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction.
“Love heals,” says Shana. “That’s our motto and that’s what healed me.”
However, there’s still thousands of others who need help.
“As an emergency room personnel, as critical care personnel, as a priest, just the general public, social workers – we need to just get rid of the stereotypes and begin to ask the question – are you free?” says Rev. McVey. “Are you working for yourself? Do you get to go where you want to? Things that you and I might take for granted that unfortunately many people don’t get to here in our midst.”