Surviving Sex Trafficking with Ebony Jones. A raw conversation shedding light on a real problem
Today Ebony Jones opens up about her survival as a victim of sex trafficking. She provides us the most raw and eloquent insight into this world that is so hard to look at. Ebony is one of the most beautiful humans we have ever met. Her courage to share her story and become an ambassador for education and change is truly humbling. She explains how we are all vulnerable to the human trafficking industry, and how it will require all of us to make changes going forward. Becoming educated is the first step in tackling this issue. We have to look down the dark rabbit hole with our eyes wide open and confront our fears and lack of understanding around this issue.
Sex Trafficking. It's a dirty word and so easy to hold at arm's length. It's a hot potato, and none of us want to address the reality of what it means. It stirs up our deepest fears and justifies the idea that ignorance is bliss. We hear about Sex Trafficking and instantly think of the movie “Taken” or refer to the media coverage of kids being kidnapped and shipped to foreign countries where they are sold into slavery. The international sex trade is big. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female, and half are children. So based just on numbers alone, we are justified being terrified, BUT…..Did you realize that sex trafficking is happening in your neighborhood? The Urban Sex trade is a booming business and its happening all around us. It's in our communities, schools, and downtown areas.
Human traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of their victims. Poverty is a gold mine. When humans basic needs are not met, food, shelter, clothing, we default to fight or flight. People will do whatever it takes to provide these fundamental needs for themselves. Poverty and lack of education become a hot spot for trafficking because it's a cash-rich environment. Once groomed and fully vested in the trade, escaping can be not only difficult but dangerous.
Ebony shares with us the idea that rehabilitating victims is inherently crucial to keep them off of the streets, but to rehabilitate a buyer creates a much bigger ripple of healing. Some prison systems offer programs to inmates convicted of sex crimes, but it's not enough. She offers this perspective;
*We help one victim it Helps one possibly two victims.
*If we help the Trafficker it helps one trafficker possibly two and 10-20+ victims connected to that trafficker
*If we help the buyer it it helps One buyer + up to five traffickers and 50+ victims
The ripple effect grows as we address each level. Here is a link to a presentation that she created. http://bit.ly/2u4eLHx
Ebony asks us to look at a bigger picture. We change the future by healing the past but most importantly looking at our present. How can we raise our boys differently? It's time to change the social norm that says “Boys don’t cry,” or “Man up.” “quit acting like a girl. “ We tell our boys that it's not ok to feel sadness, hurt or fear. We stunt their ability to express emotion and thrive in relationships. Ebony explains that the buyers are successful and influential, but are lacking something bigger in a relationship. We need to change the dialogue for our boys, and as women learn how to sit with the men when they cry, are afraid or hurting.
Social media has become a hot spot for Traffickers. They can cast a much wider net and capture a much broader group of girls. The young, insecure girls who are trying to be glamorous, or are depressed, no friends at school or mad at their parent. The traffickers learn about the girls and pretend to understand them. They prey on girls who are feeling misunderstood, unloved and not beautiful. These guys are very good at grooming and reassuring the girls that they are beautiful and saying things like “I know how you feel, you are beautiful,” filling the hole that these girls are missing. This is a list of comments on social media that draw in a trafficker.
"Nobody gets me."
"I am so sick of being single."
"I am so ugly."
"How do I look?"
"My life sucks."
"She's not my true friend."
"My parents don't trust me."
"I'm being treated like a kid."
"I need to get out of here.”
Predators look for indicators of substance abuse, runaway activity, and destabilization within the home.
A trafficker's strategic response includes:
"I understand you.”
"I love you.”
"I think you're beautiful. I'll encourage you to show your body. Use your body.”
"I'll make your life better.”
"I'll encourage you to take risks. You're an adult.”
"I'll protect you.”
"I'll make you successful.”
Grooming children for sex trafficking can consist of convincing someone to send a risky picture and then using it to extort them. They threaten to tell their parents or expose the image. Out of fear, they become victims, and this can happen in any demographic.
We need to continually educate ourselves, and teach our children safe practices online. In an urban sex trafficking environment, a girl may be picked up from school by a trafficker, work a job or two and then be taken back home for dinner. She has cash from her jobs that day and is keeping the secret from her parents. Let's all make a vow to become educated and find ways to combat human trafficking where we are. Look for signs in the children you see at school, church, or in your neighborhood. When we take the time to listen to stories, the hard ones, the uncomfortable ones, we will start to build bridges towards a more compassionate humanity. Regardless of race, wealth, education, title, demographic, we all share in common the fundamental need to be loved and cared for. Somehow we need to foster the understanding of our differences so that we can come together and eradicate all forms of human trafficking.
We are linking several resources and information to get you started. Together, we can move mountains.
Trafficking presentation by Ebony Jones (please read this)
For Victims needing help
Groups and Organizations offering resources
Interviews by Ebony