Hiding in plain sight - modern day slavery in the heartland: Kris Wade at TEDxWyandotte

well I just feel compelled to warn everybody before we get started that that this is not a pretty topic some of the things that we'll talk about are somewhat graphic and so just just be ready for that like Sheree was saying I'm a director of a Kansas City nonprofit called the Justice Project KC and we work with the women who are out in the streets including large contingent of transgender women who are out there we do a lot of street outreach we're a grassroots organization we go to where these people are we go under the bridge we go in the jail we go to the treatment centers we provide system navigation and advocacy court advocacy victim advocacy whatever they need to try to help raise themselves up to get out of the streets in the course of this work we discovered that a number of women and not just women but because that's who we work with a female population we discovered that most of these women who were out there had been forced into prostitution or some form of sex work while they were out in the streets in order to survive we have survivors who have been in that situation who work with us we have a peer mentor who has also survived those things and I am also a survivor of a number of similar crimes against women so we felt compelled to really find out what was going on with these folks how could we help them and and what their situation was we learned that they were actually being enslaved they were slaves now not in the traditional way that you would think of because in 1865 our United States Constitution added the Thirteenth Amendment and the Thirteenth Amendment said that slavery and involuntary servitude unless you are a convicted criminal and then you can still be enslaved by the system but unless you were a convicted criminal that slavery and any kind of involuntary servitude would be abolished in the United States and that was in 1865 so let's fast forward to now to the 21st century hearing in in our Kansas City metro area we sit right in the middle of the country we have highways that crisscross us running to the border of Canada the border of Mexico were a main thoroughfare for all sorts of trafficking drug trafficking gun trafficking human smuggling and human trafficking so what is human trafficking and how are the people in our area how are these women enslaved in the 21st century well human trafficking doesn't necessarily involve the movement of people from one point to another trafficking in this instance means the buying and selling of individuals as commodities people become commodities in human trafficking the difference between human smuggling and human trafficking is the issue of consent now when you are someone who is coming from another country and you want to come to the United States and you find someone who can bring you across a border and get you into the country that's smuggling they're gonna sneak you past the authorities and get you into the country because you want to do that and once you're over here they're gone they're done with you you're on your own that's human smuggling the difference between human smuggling and trafficking is that while you may originally go along with the idea of going with a trafficker to another area or another country once you are there they don't cut loose of you the trafficker maintains control and the way they do this is through force fraud or coercion a lot of people are tricked or lured into human trafficking and then they end up being sexually exploited through prostitution or pornography they end up in what is called debt bondage to where their traffickers have promised them a certain type of work which would be labor trafficking and then when they get here they find out oh my god you know we don't get paid anything they've got all of our documents we can't move around freely we're all housed be 1520 people to a room or worse yet in a warehouse we aren't receiving our wages this is the difference between smuggling and trafficking sex trafficking is mostly what we see in our area and 80% of the victims are women and female children the age of entry into prostitution in this area is about 11 I've seen victims as young as 9 and these people are controlled by criminals we call traffickers and traffickers are very brutal they control their victims through force through coercion they beat them they burn them they brand them they force them into sex acts with with many many people they make gobs of gobs of money and these guys are figuring out that it's a lot cheaper to sell a human being and a lot faster to sell a human being and you and much more lucrative to sell a human being than it is to sell guns it is to sell dope because you don't have to keep getting another object to sell you've got to go out and find more drugs you've got to go out and find more guns but you don't have to and you can always go out and find more people and believe me they are out there trolling for people but it's easy to sell the same person over and over and over and over again and it's not unheard of for a woman or a child to have to perform 15 or 20 sex acts in a day whether it's out on the street whether it's on the internet whether it's in hotels through places like Backpage or Craigslist all this is going on so women are lured into this they're forced into sex trafficking they can't get away from their abusers and once we realize this we realize that the face of human trafficking is not just in Asia it's not just in Africa it's not just in Latin America or Mexico it's right here in the Kansas City metro area and the women that are being used in prostitution in this area and we don't call them prostitutes we call them prostituted or being used in prostitution prostitution should really become considered a noun it should not be considered something that you applied to an individual prostitution is an industry it's a billion-dollar industry in the sex trafficking world and once you're trapped up in it it's practically impossible to get loose unless you're arrested or you manage to escape somehow this year I've had three women on my caseload murdered by their pimps last year I had six this is in Kansas City the danger isn't always from their traffickers sometimes it's from the demand side the consumers the guys who are buying services from them and they're willing to pay whatever it takes the new american trafficker a lot of what we're seeing on the streets in our area are the dope dealers they get women addicted to crack addicted to heroin addicted to methamphetamine or some other kind of addictive substance PCP oxycontin whatever it might be once they've got them addicted to where they require this drug on a daily basis and they don't have any money because this stuff wipes you out then these guys are like well you can go out on the streets and you can earn some money for me you can find tricks the guys who are the consumers of prostitution they may want some drugs so you can not only start running drugs for me but you can prostitute for me as well once these women fall into this trap there is absolutely no way they can ever pay these guys back sometimes they trade their birth certificate their driver's license their food stamp card whatever they might have to be able to continue to get a drug but when you can't drink get the drug anymore then these guys are going to want payback and the way they want payback is to put you out on the street or you'll be prostituting for them they take all of your money and you're enslaved and this is what's happening in our city today so we felt compelled to reach out to these women and try to help them lift up out of this and get them out of the trap of human trafficking so what we've done is we do a lot of street outreach we me then we befriend them we work with them we let them know we know what you're going through we know what you what's happening to you we also try to determine who is your trafficker who's doing this to you who's your pimp who is it that's got you under their control and keeps you there by abusing you torturing you making an example out of you for other women who is this person and once we find that out then we also try to help get that person off the streets Kansas City is a big leader in this field we have a very active human trafficking coalition in the Western District of Missouri and the US Attorney's Office has taken the lead on this they prosecuted more trafficking cases than practically anybody in the country we put together a coalition here of a variety of organizations that can spring into action once we have victims when there are raids we come together we rescue victims and we work with them to help them get safety it's very difficult to do because traffickers are very persistent people and once they have a high earner they don't want to cut loose very easily lots of times these women end up with HIV they end up with all kinds of other sexually transmitted diseases they often have lifetime injuries that last forever where they've been beaten raped assaulted thrown out of cars whatever you know so this is not just an issue of social justice for these women it's also a public health issue these guys are not taking care of these women occasionally if somebody gets hurt badly enough they might show up at a hospital so any health care providers any social service providers beyond the lookout for these folks they will present very similar to a sexual assault victim or they may present very similar to a domestic violence survivor they will have strange injuries sometimes they'll be old injuries they may have a host of sexually transmitted infections they may have some man or even a woman accompanying them who doesn't want to let them go off alone with a doctor or a nurse or a social sir as provider so you need to be looking for these kinds of red flags the unfortunate thing is that victims are very hard to identify in labor trafficking they might be working in hotels they might be working in any kind of fact or your business or farm work for the women who are prostituting they might be on Craigslist they might be on Backpage they may be out on the streets they may start out on their own as self-starters but they won't be that way very long because the traffickers are also there looking on Craigslist they're looking on Backpage they're driving the streets and they're going places like malls places where kids hang out movie theaters because the younger the commodity the more money that they can make and when you look at the fact that there's anywhere between 300,000 and four or five hundred thousand runaway kids out on our streets at any given time and thousands of them here in Kansas City that are just blending in you don't even notice these kids when you're out driving around these kids could fall victim very easily vulnerable people are prey for traffickers so be on the lookout for this go to the go to the Internet go to our website the Justice Project kc.org find out more about this check out the US Attorney's website on both sides of the line they're very active in this work and remember this can happen to anyone you don't have to be homeless you don't have to be poor it can happen to anyone kids are lured all the time by traffickers through the internet out in public even people who you would never expect could be drawn into this sometimes traffickers even snatch people right off the streets it happens it happens so be aware that this is going on this is modern-day slavery and we need to step up we need to speak out we need to let our legislators know that we need stiff laws the demand side needs to be addressed very severely the system needs to be looked at in the way that they have continued to contribute to the oppression of women through through trafficking by not recognizing that even adult women are it can be victims of forced fraud and coercion because force fraud and coercion only has to be proved by adult victims not by minor victims according to the law so you're 18 or 17 one day you're being prostituted in sex trafficking you turn 18 the next day now you've got to prove that you've been forced fraud or tricked into this but the day before you didn't so nothing has changed so we need to contact our legislators we need to contact our local agencies on our police departments in our courts and let them know that women over the age of 18 if they're involved in prostitution or some kind of sex trafficking there should be no need for them to prove force fraud and coercion because this is inherent in trafficking of any kind at any age but there are things that you can do we're working on this issue very hard we're helping women get out of the sex trade we're getting them into homes we're getting them services we're getting their traffickers arrested and put into jail and into prison and this is a federal crime so there are things that are being done and there's ways that you can help go to the Internet just put in human trafficking you'll find out all kinds of information there are all kinds of things that are going on in the area to combat this and there are things that you can learn about that will help you identify possible victims or what to do if you suspect trafficking ways that you could report it and ways that you can raise your children to understand that buying people is slavery thank you

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. This is the same old problem renamed. The only difference is that the victims are not universally being blamed due to gender bias against women by men in the law

  2. Kevin Casey, all prostitution is exploitation of women. Conventions and global outcries of these women, once they were free of this agreed that if people quit using women like this, they would quit being exploited and have to go to regular jobs. They are abused women most of the time, runaways who need money, or ones who got taken for some lazy slobs use, to make himself money, and it would still be that same way.

  3. Thank you so deeply for your devotion and incredibly hard work. You're so well spoken which is a great asset. I'm in Kansas & nothing is more important than our Children. Keep being remarkable Kris

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