COMMENTARY: THE COST OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING By Marisa Trevino
by Marisa Trevino    Mon, Oct 24, 2005, 03:08 PM

As long as I’ve lived in Texas and have traveled back and forth from Oklahoma along I-35, I have been bothered by the fact that the first Lone Star business people see when they cross our northern border is an adult video store.

It disgusts and embarrasses me that that small business serves as the state’s welcome wagon.

It used to be that every time I passed it I wondered about the people who patronized it. Nowadays, I no longer think about them. Instead, I wonder about the products — the sex tapes, and the girls who are on them.

I wonder how many of the girls are children, where they are, who they are, if anyone is missing them, and how many of them are doing this against their will.  Chances are a good portion of the girls are indeed being forced to do it. They are the victims of what is becoming known as human trafficking, the 21st Century’s version of the slave trade.

The U.S State Department reports that between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the United States annually. Since 2001, 20 percent of the total number of identified victims nationwide have been located in Texas.

And it’s big business.

In a 60 Minutes report last year, it was stated that the adult entertainment business makes about $10 billion a year. A part of that comes from the over 800 million rentals of adult videotapes and DVDs from adult video stores such as the one on the banks of the Red River.

Even cable companies, satellite television providers and major hotel chains are in the business. All provide their subscribers and guests the option of tuning into sexually explicit programs. Their profits are estimated to be in the millions.

It’s a business that’s not slowing down, and one that is fueling just one demand for human slavery.

According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, people are enslaved to provide free or low-wage labor in a variety of professions: from pornography and forced prostitution to those who bus restaurant tables, work as live-in nannies and maids to the hard-hat-wearing workers at construction sites.

The victims come from such faraway places as South America and the Soviet Union and as close as the next block over. Most of them are tricked into slavery with such starry promises as being high-fashion models, Hollywood actresses or earning the equivalent of a lotto jackpot.

As someone sheltered in the suburbs, I used to think human slavery was something that happened far away. But it’s a lot closer to home than any of us realize. We’re just not aware.

So many of us could make a difference in someone else’s life if we just learned how to recognize the signs of slavery.

Educating ourselves about the issue is about to get a little easier. For two nights, starting on October 24, the Lifetime cable television channel is airing a special miniseries that highlights this atrocity.

What makes this program unique is that Lifetime is providing on their website a guide explaining the issue and how to take action to help stop it.

It’s one thing if someone chooses of their own free will to either sell their bodies or be workaholics, it’s quite another to be stripped of all human dignity to slave for the almighty dollar pocketed by someone else.

Marisa Treviño is a freelance contributor and authors the blog LatinaLista found at http://www.latinalista.blogspot.com

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