The threats of human trafficking and how to stay safe from them
Mary Dupuis ’19
Posted on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018
According to the National Sex Trafficking Hotline, there were 962 calls to the hotline and 305 cases reported in Michigan in 2017 alone.
“Don’t go out in public alone; don’t talk to strangers; don’t go outside when it’s dark; don’t get in the car; don’t message them back; don’t stay with them,” are just some of the many phrases being burned into the minds of students as sex trafficking becomes a more prominent threat in today’s society.
But, while these warnings are plastered everywhere, the question still remains if students actually know how to protect themselves from these threats.
While the focus of this issue is to be alert and aware, when the time comes students either know how to defend themselves and get away or don’t.
“To defend yourself scream, run, carry mace,” says senior Sarah Periard. “I just live my life and hope I don’t get killed,” adds Periard.
With social media platforms giving predators easy access to people everywhere, it is important for students to know how to keep themselves safe-on and off line.
“Social media makes sex trafficking more of a threat because you can reach people from all across the country or even from different countries on social media that you couldn’t do without it,” says senior Maximos Lobbestael.
One of the biggest cautions offered to students is to be wary of who they communicate with online and to revert to the childhood warning of “stranger danger.”
“I do think that social media has made sex trafficking more of an issue because I think that people are lured into what they think will be relationships or some people can ‘save’ them if they think that they’re struggling with parents or at home. They can be lured into that thinking it’s another kid or even knowing it’s an adult,” says social worker Roxanne Barzone.
While human trafficking is generally thought of as luring people in over social media or kidnapping people and forcing them to go into a sex trade; that is not always the case. There is much more to look out for in order to stay safe.
“A lot of people think that it might be kidnapping stuff but it’s not. It’s people that maybe run away from home and they have nowhere to go and they meet somebody and they’re like ‘Hey I’ll take you in but you’re going to do this,’” says Saint Clair Shores Detective Thomas Murphy. “It’s people that leave home on their own and maybe get addicted to drugs or go into prostitution. Or maybe it’s an illegal immigrant who came here from another country and have nowhere to go and no way to support themselves,” adds Murphy.
Regardless of how it happens, there are many ways that students can combat each threat; whether it be watching their surroundings more closely, staying off their phone in public, or even taking a self defense class.
“Being prepared by training hard and often is important, as well as situational awareness. Staying off your phone when in public is crucial, especially while traveling in public transport. You cannot defend what you are unaware is about to happen-so stay alert,” says the owner of Professional Karate Schools of America (PKSA) in St. Clair Shores, Shaun Folkwein.
Marc Saurbier, owner of New Edge Martial Arts, agrees, and feels that students should not only be alert at all times, but also always be prepared for a potential attack.
“Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to those around you. Be careful about who you trust, particularly in situations where you are alone with that person or could be in a weakened state, such as through the use of drugs or alcohol,” says Saurbier. “If someone is trying to accost you, fight until you can fight no more,” adds Saurbier.
Saurbier stresses that mental preparation is incredibly important, and that you truly never know what you will endure in this type of situation.
“When you are attacked it will hurt, probably a lot; and chances are the victim will never have encountered this sort of violence. The attacker will try to injure and disable you as quickly as possible because they want to be in control. Your fear will peak and panic will set in, which will disable your reactions. To survive you have to collect your mind, push aside the pain and fear, and fight back hard. Defending yourself in these situations requires practice,” says Saurbier.
Folkwein agrees, and feels that training with the intensity of a real life situation is important when it comes to being mentally ready to combat a situation.
“Self defense is just as much mental as it is physical so we train to strengthen both areas. We stress working hard and training like it’s real. This way if one is ever presented with a situation and they do have to defend themselves then they will be prepared,” says Folkwein.
Self defense classes are offered by both schools, and students are invited to find out more if desired.
Saurbier puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that knowing how to defend yourself is incredibly important. However, getting away and running is always a better option.
“Defending yourself in these situations requires practice. You don’t need a lot of moves, but you need to be able to do the basics without thinking; and probably while your nose is bleeding, your eyes are watering, or worse. It is not glamorous or macho, but if you can run, do that,” says Saurbier. “There are only three possible outcomes in an encounter: One, you get hurt; two, the other guy gets hurt; three, you and the other guy gets hurt. Seriously, get away and run away if you can. Real life is not a Jackie Chan movie,” adds Saurbier.
With a massive threat on the rise in peoples’ own backyard, the need for safety and the knowledge of self protection is more prominent than ever before.
“Sex trafficking is a problem in Michigan. My understanding from what I’ve read is that we’re in the top ten states risk wise. But, no areas are considered excluded from risk and that would probably be true throughout the country,” says Barzone.
According to Murphy, outgoing strangers are often the greatest political danger of which students should be aware.
“Just be aware of people messing with strangers; people that you don’t know trying to get you to go with them. Most trafficking stuff isn’t going to be kidnapping because it’s going to be people who reach out towards somebody else who maybe don’t have a lot (runaways) and they offer them something for their services. Then they’re just trapped into it,” says Murphy.
When students are equipped with situational awareness as well as the ability to defend themselves-mentally and physically-the threat is there, but not undefeatable. Students need not live in fear any longer.