Today's Slavery

May 13, 2014

Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith works with Human Rights First to address trafficking of women and children. This became her passion after work with a client took Linda to South America and stimulated a well-rooted concern for women and children living in impoverished situations. Linda started a management and financial consulting company after retiring from a career in higher education, including VP for Finance at UAB, Vice Chancellor for Finance for the University of Alabama System, and VP and COO for the University of Connecticut.
 
Like many white Southerners, I carry guilt that crosses almost 150 years since the acts of enslavement were perpetrated against African Americans by our forefathers. Even after watching countless documentaries and movies, I still have a physical reaction to the horrific acts, and I am amazed that any American ever believed he had the right to own another human being. I know I am not alone in my response, because my friends and I have talked about these reactions. We believe we would never allow slavery to occur again on our home soil. Yet, we are allowing an equally violent and pervasive form of slavery to flourish today, not just in other parts of the world but right here in our own city.
 
Human Trafficking for sex and labor is a modern-day form of slavery, and while we and our families have slept safely in our beds, it has claimed 27 million victims worldwide. An estimated 800,000 new victims are added each year. This slave trade is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world after the drug trade, generating an estimated $32 billion in profits each year for those engaged in trafficking the victims. These statistics certainly stunned me when I learned of them, but I am equally flabbergasted that less than 5,000 perpetrators have been prosecuted for these horrendous crimes.
 
The demand for this slave labor derives from the search for commercial sex or cheap labor. So why isn’t the current slave trade something of which we are more aware and about which we are more concerned and proactive? I suspect it is partly because we believe human trafficking to be a problem in other countries but not in the U.S. That doesn’t make it less egregious, but maybe it makes us feel somewhat insulated. The truth is that human trafficking is pervasive in the U.S. and is fast approaching drugs as the illicit trade of choice for those who use it for economic gain. It is primarily a crime against women and children, and maybe if we understand that the next victim could be one of our daughters, granddaughters, or nieces, we will treat it as the horrific crime against humanity that it is.
 
One prominent local group working on trafficking is WellHouse. They are doing a great job helping to rescue victims and provide them a safe haven, raising awareness about trafficking and promoting changes in laws. If meaningful change is to occur, we need to attack this scourge from additional angles. An important first step is opening the dialogue and increasing awareness, which is my goal with this blog. You will be hearing more from me in the months to come, and I look forward to hearing from you. 
 

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