News / USA

Facing Modern Day Enslavement

Facing Modern Day Enslavementi
X
December 06, 2013 9:53 PM
Human trafficking exists in almost every region around the globe - children, young women, even men - entrapped and forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude, unable to escape. The best estimates indicate that 100,000 children and adults are trafficked within the U.S. every year. As VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports, though, a variety of activists have mobilized to fight it. Faith Lapidus narrates.
TEXT SIZE - +
Faiza Elmasry
Human trafficking exists in almost every region around the globe - children, young women, even men - entrapped and forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude, unable to escape. The best estimates indicate that 100,000 children and adults are trafficked within the U.S. every year. A variety of activists have mobilized to fight it.

Eight years ago, Shamere McKenzie was an ambitious 21-year-old college student in New York. The last thing she expected was to become trapped in the commercial sex industry.

“It happened by meeting a man who I believed had an interest in dating me at first. I would never think he was a pimp because he was very smooth, very charming," said McKenzie. "We had great conversations about politics, single parents in the community, the high number of African American males incarcerated. So with those types of conversations, I didn’t think that this guy was, in fact, a pimp. I was in jeopardy of losing my scholarship. I needed $3,000 to go back to school, and he said, ‘don’t worry I’ll help you get back to school.'”

But instead of helping her, he kidnapped her and forced her into prostitution.

“I think a true word that will really define what it’s like to be enslaved is torture. And that is torture in every sense of the word that you can just imagine of what torture is," she said. "A lot of times the public think it’s these beatings or rapes, but it’s more than that. For some survivors it’s getting burns with cigarette butts. For some survivors it’s being slashed in the head with a box cutter.”

McKenzie was enslaved for 18 months during which she tried every possible way to escape.

“But all my ways proved futile. I didn’t have the courage to kill him. I tried running away a couple of times, but that didn’t work. I thought about poisoning his food and things of that nature to get out," said McKenzie. "But from the very first time, I told my trafficker I wanted to leave. And he told me, 'if you leave me I will kill you or your family.'”

It wasn’t until the police busted her trafficker - and her - that she was freed.

McKenzie is now working with Shared Hope International, an organization that fights to prevent sex trafficking and rescue those in caught in its web.

Spokeswoman Taryn Offenbacher said they have a comprehensive strategy to achieve their mission. “Our prevention efforts are all based on training and awareness. [In] our restoration efforts, we have 12 partners in five countries and we support long-term restoration, shelter and services, medical treatment, food and shelter, clothing, educational opportunities and training. The justice component [is] being able to properly prosecute the crime.”

While trafficking takes different forms around the world, Offenbacher said the driving force behind it remains the same: demand.

“We know that without demand there will be no trafficker, there will no victim," said Offenbacher. "If states can prioritize demand deterrence, putting laws on the books that would deter buyers and provide meaningful, significant sentences and punishments that would deter them from the crime, and if it’s recognized as a crime, we believe we would see less buyers out there buying, and less victims out there being exploited.”

That is the message Shamere McKenzie presents as a voice for sex trafficking victims.
 
“I speak to several audiences. I speak to colleges, to churches, I speak with policy makers. When I’m speaking to young men, I stress upon the fact that it’s not cool to be a pimp. I explain to them what the true definition of a pimp is. And for several of these young men, when they hear that they’re like, ‘wow, these pimps are really bad.’ And for young ladies, I explain to them how easy it is for them to be captured by a pimp.”

Now almost 30, McKenzie is getting ready to go back to college and study law. She hopes to prosecute traffickers, helping to end the scourge of human trafficking.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 09, 2013 7:08 PM
I am suddened at all to hear about this kind of enslavement story.
Victims are not to blame, deceivers are to blame and should be eradicated. I can not believe 100,000 people are estimated to be trafficked in the US every year. Victims who are coming out their terrible experiences are brave enough to raise awareness to naive young people. Good luck Shamere McKenzie !

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid