To The Editor:
“You don’t mean here, right?” I hear that question more than 100 hundred times per year in conversations about human trafficking, modern slavery and sex trafficking in southeastern Pennsylvania—especially in the beautiful, well-off suburbs and countryside surrounding Philadelphia.
My answer is always the same. “Yes, it is here in Philadelphia, and in Chester, Delaware, Bucks, Lancaster, Berks, Montgomery, Lehigh and other counties.” Usually listeners must grapple with the notion for a while before it sinks in.
It was hard for me to believe, too, before I began asking questions, reading press releases on the FBI’s website and volunteering at Dawn’s Place, a local residence for female survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
My understanding of human trafficking’s local prevalence and its many faces have grown after knowing Ann Marie, who was arrested more than 50 times for prostitution before anyone considered that she was a victim instead of a criminal; a survivor who was enslaved for ten years in this country before being rescued; another whose husband sold her to support his drug habit; and Stardetta, whose childhood history of being passed around for sex by her brother’s friends and threatened if she exposed the truth led her to believe that life offered no other options.
As communities come to the realization that human trafficking is here, not just somewhere else, we need to face it and fight it. One way to work against it is to support state Senate Bill 75. The bill addresses the issue of human trafficking in a comprehensive way—defining the crime, making prosecution of perpetrators more effective, and providing for victims.
On Dec. 10, citizens from throughout the state will meet at the Capitol in Harrisburg to encourage our elected officials to vote in favor of this bill. I will be there as will other people of conscience and members of anti-human trafficking coalitions from throughout Pennsylvania. We invite neighbors to join us in person or in support calling legislators to ask for their support of SB75.
Passing SB75 is a step toward being able to say someday that human trafficking doesn’t exist here… or anywhere else.
Carol Hart Metzker