Alexander Burnett & Forest Jarvis
(Students at Middlebury College)
On December 4, 2012, Shamere McKenzie was invited together with Laura Murphy to speak to Middlebury College students about modern-day slavery. Their talk was part of a symposium organized by the Stop Traffick group on campus, a group dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking.
Shamere spoke to the audience about the culture of sex trafficking within the United States, explaining how words like “pimp” are accepted without question in our everyday vocabulary. In particular she gave the example of the song “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp”, which glorifies the life of a pimp. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2005 with almost no controversy despite its subject material.
She then explained the different types of trafficking and how girls come to be involved in this industry. Shamere explained how her pimp lured her in by appealing to her political and personal interests, creating an affinity with her. She was then coerced into sex slavery, enduring 18 months of exploitation. Explaining how others are forced into the business, she noted how many girls who are being exploited via gangs are allowed to go to school so they can recruit classmates. She told the harrowing story of girls who would go to what they were told would be a “skip party” only to be raped by a group of men. She explained how such men threaten to expose photographs or use other psychological tactics to discourage girls from coming forward. Shamere explained that pimps are the “smartest people in the world” as they are constantly thinking up new ways to manipulate young girls and keep them under their control.
Students next heard from Laura Murphy, a professor at Loyola University and National College Chapter Coordinator for Free the Slaves. She explained how 27 million people are currently enslaved in the world with no hope of escape. She compared past slavery with modern slavery, explaining how there are few differences between the two, with the exception that modern slavery is hidden from view. She spoke of five key elements needed in the abolitionist movement: knowledge, funding, rescue, rehabilitation, and legal enforcement. The first two are categories in which student activists are most able to make an impact. She encouraged students to think of personal skills and of connections in the community that they can use to make a difference.
Are people just insensitive or is it that they really don’t understand the issue of human trafficking? My dear friend and fellow survivor – Holly Smith – wrote a great article to her fellow survivors of trafficking. She informed us that we are more than our stories. Many times survivors are asked to speak about the gruesome experiences while enslaved. Would you like to stand up before a crowd a tell them about your first sexual encounter? Read the article and leave comments for Holly.
Who is Holly Smith:
Holly is a survivor of child trafficking and an advocate against all forms of human trafficking. In order to raise awareness of human trafficking within the United States, Holly has appeared on the Dr. Oz show and has been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine. Holly is requested on a regular basis to provide testimony and input to law enforcement officials, social service providers, human trafficking task forces, legislators, educators, and journalists.
Most recently, Holly was the keynote speaker for the April 2012 Trafficking in Persons Symposium in Salt Lake City, UT, an event hosted by the United States Department of Justice. Holly works with survivors and anti-human trafficking organizations across the country.
When she isn’t speaking, Holly is working on a memoir about her experience with falling victim to child traffickers at the age of fourteen. Holly earned a B.A. in Biology with a Minor in Writing from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. She currently lives in Richmond, VA with her husband and their Miniature Schnauzer. Holly invites you to join her on Facebook or Twitter and to seek additional tips on her personal blog.
My dear friend and fellow survivor Barbara Amaya wrote this article for the Washington Times. This has been a hot topic among survivors and Barbara expressed our thoughts in a clear and concise way. Please read the article and add your comments.
Who is Barbara Amaya:
Barbara Amaya brings a unique perspective and voice to her writing, the voice of a survivor. Though Barbara endured early trauma and abuse, she refuses to be a victim. She aims to bring a message of hope and strength to others through her writing and spoken word.
Barbara volunteers with standupforkids.org a national nonprofit organization that works with runaway children. She’s currently writing a book, called Girl’s Guide to Survival: Life Lessons from the Street. Barbara is available for speaking engagements and you can follow her on Twitter BarbaraAmaya4, or contact her through her website at Barbaraamaya.com or on Facebook.