Recently, my home parish in Whitman, The Church of the Holy Ghost, hosted a riveting information night on human trafficking. Sister Ellen Powers of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Brighton has been working with young girls who are often enslaved by vicious pimps in order to ensure a steady flow of profits from prostitution.
Sister Ellen sadly described the life of these girls-they are regularly abused and moved from location to location in order to stay one step ahead of the law. Attempts to runaway are often followed by mind control, intimidation and beatings.
I and my fellow parish members were overwhelmed by the scale of the human trafficking problem. This criminal activity is global in nature and reaps nearly $ 10 billion annually. Human trafficking is now the second largest criminal pursuit behind the international drug trade. An estimated 700,000 persons are trafficked globally each year and 17,000 enter the United States yearly for the sex trade.
Most of the victims are from poor surroundings and are often duped into thinking that a better life lies ahead if they just get out of their current conditions and follow what is presented to them as a glamorous life as a model or actress. Of course no such career materializes but rather years of enslavement and degradation.
Sister Ellen’s response to the human trafficking is not only strict laws which punish the pimps or the criminal syndicates, but the establishment of safe houses to protect those women who want out of the sex trade. The Sisters of Saint Joseph opened up such a safe house in the neighboring city of Brockton to provide shelter and protection. This is a small step but a necessary one if these young women are to survive and start their lives anew.
Leaving The Church of the Holy Ghost after Sister Ellen’s presentation it was difficult to forget that there is a disturbing underside of life right here in our midst and that sex trade slavery is actually getting larger with growing profits to those who control and abuse young women. Slavery indeed remains a sad part of our world.