BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, FOUNDER OF STREET SMART SELF DEFENSE
When reports of human trafficking in the United States dominate headlines, it often reminds us about scenes from the well-known movieTaken. This film accurately depicts the threat of human trafficking that occurs every day right here on our shores, claiming almost20,000 victims each year. Many of these trafficking cases are funneled through Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean. So, it was no surprise that when my 17-year-old niece went on a trip to Florida with one of her friends, I specifically advised them to be very careful in airports. I strongly recommended that they stay together and not accept rides or pickups from strangers.
Airports are a hotbed for the transfer of victims out of the U.S. and into international territories. It is so widespread that our airlines have become increasingly vigilant in spotting suspicious human trafficking behavior. In addition to being totally aware of your surroundings, it is never a bad idea to have a self-defense plan in place, in case anything was to ever take a turn for the worst. MUNIO, unlike many other self-defense tools, not only disguises itself very well as a stylish keychain, but is also able to be taken on a plane.
The average age of children preyed upon as victims of human trafficking is 13. The greatest at-risk population of kids who fall victim to human trafficking scams are those in foster care situations, largely because these kids have been shipped around to various families and lack bonding. Their desperate search to belong puts them front and center to these harmful predators.
The Sad Influence of the Drug Trade
Are kids under the age of 10 at risk of being trafficked?Yes! Kids in this age group are often used in the drug trade. It’s a common tactic used at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. I personally know a border patrol agent who has worked rotations in this area who can testify to this as fact. It’s a very lucrative business at the expense of innocent children. Many families in Mexico live in poverty, so they will sign their kids up to “work” for these drug lords in exchange for money as a means to support the needs of the family. Sometimes the kids come back, and sometimes they don’t. It’s a huge risk, but one that desperate families are willing to take for the survival of the rest. The families who never see their child again don’t get paid. These kids end up abandoned by their captors to die in the deserts of Arizona. If a family is lucky enough to see their child AND get paid, their child is used again and again by different captors. The drug cartels will bring the child across the border to pose as “family” so that they gain entrance into the states and make their undercover delivery. The cartel network will then fly these kids back to Mexico to repeat the same exercise multiple times. The kids are forced to go by different names and assume the identity of fake family units. Eventually, these kids lose all sense of their own identity too. It’s a common abusive, smoke-screen tactic that our border agents are working hard to stop every day!
Disgusting Profits from Human Trafficking
According to aUnited Nations report, human trafficking generates over $30 billion in annual profits. In 2018, my home state of Pennsylvania recorded 275 cases of human trafficking. The Commonwealth ranks top 10 in the country for human trafficking cases. Our state and senate are working to pass bills to increase penalties and strengthen cases against human trafficking suspects.
Human Trafficking and Social Media Dangers for Children
The number of human trafficking victims innocently recruited through social media and online scams has skyrocketed in recent years. This is why it is so important for parents to monitor their children’s online activities, especially tweens! The cardinal rule inself-defense is “prevention”. Since many of these victims are lured into the trade, it’s best for all of us to better educate our kids regardingsafe online practices as well as a greater vigilance as to what websites and social media platforms they are frequenting. The best way to fight a global problem is to start local!
Rachel Cheeseman has practiced martial arts for over 32 years, and has a 2nd degree black belt in Chinese Kung Fu Karate Self Defense and a 1st degree black belt in Krav Maga. Following the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment, she founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA to empower women's personal safety. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.