anti-human trafficking · anti-slavery · human trafficking · prositution · slavery

Playground Documentary + Account

I don’t really get too many comments as it is, but I wanted to make another entry because this is important and something too many people don’t realize is real or happening around them. The average age of girls/women who are prostitutes in the U.S. alone are 12-14 year olds. Truth! Last year I heard about this documentary coming out, and now it is touring around the country.

Check out http://www.playgroundproject.com/ for dates/locations and more info. If you have netflix, it will be released but I don’t know when (I have it in the saved part of my que). I think a lot of people tend to believe that people choose to be prostitutes, but only 5-10% of women involved in it choose that lifestyle. Most of it is forced and it is a form of slavery.

I should share a few of the accounts I’ve read about from the many human trafficking books I read (11 so far). I read an interesting one recently in the book I’m almost done reading now by Kevin Bales (who runs/is president of http://freetheslaves.net/) called Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves. I think I will share it with you. Keep in mind that this stuff happens to girls born in the U.S. as well in our own country in their own towns. It is everywhere.

About thirty minutes north of San Diego is a town called Oceanside, where strawberries and other fruit grow in fields bordered by beds of golden reeds. Waving gently in the ocean breezes, the reeds concealed an ugly business. Pimps pushed paths through the tall reeds, and hollowed out small “caves” along the paths. There on the ground, with scraps of clothing, bits of blankets, used condoms, spit, empty bottles, and trash, teenagers were on their backs, forced to have sex with the two hundred men a day who prowled these paths.

One of these girls was Reina. At the age of fifteen, Reina was slipped across the border from Mexico by human traffickers, who lured her with the promise of a job. She was quickly put to work, forced to have sex with itinerant farmworkers in the reed caves. Because she was pretty, more men wanted her and used her every day. In Reina’s case, and for the girls enslaved with her, we have something very rare – an independent witness, “Patricia”, a Mexican doctor who supplied condoms and care to these girls. Like other HIV/AIDS workers around the world, Patricia was allwed into the darkest holes of slavery only if she promised not to intervene. . . . .

Virgins are too valuable to put out in the dirt for migrant workers to use; their degradation is more likely to begin with a gringo. Patricia explained that local American men contact the pimps looking for a “cherry girl.”  Later, once she has been broken in by the men. . .. .the girls will be shuffled from camp to camp.

This was Reina’s life, though she was not a virgin when she was brought to the United States. Born in Puebla, Mexico, Reina lost her mother when she was seven, and her education ended after the second grade.  For a while she was cared for by her grandmother, but her grandmother died as well. She was left with her father, and her life turned ugly.  When she was eleven, he gave her as a gift to the local police chief, who raped her again and again.  In time she became pregnant and gave birth to a little girl. Then, aged fourteen, she met pimp Arturo Lopez.  In an old-age scam, Arturo convinced Reina that he was in love with her and that he could take her away from the abuse she was suffering. He persuaded her that if she would just leave her baby with some of his relatives, he would take her to the United States and fix her up with a good job.

Taken to Tijuana, Reina was forced to become a sex slave. When she resisted, she was told her baby would be killed.  Soon a “coyote” slipped her into the U.S.  She was lodged in the town of Vista, California, and during the day was sent into the reed beds or other sex camps for migrant farm workers. Shattered emotionally and in great pain, she readily turned to the drugs and booze the traffickers offered her. For her the drugs offered a moment of oblivion and relief; for the slaveholders they were another tool used to control Reina and the other girls.

Perhaps it was the thought of her baby in the hands of the pimps; perhaps it was Reina’s moment to be “sick and tired of being sick and tired” We don’t know for sure, but after seven months, Reina made a run for it. Caught, she was beaten savagely by her pimp, Arturo. After a few days, she tried again.  This time she made it and managed to reach the local police station.  The police in turn called social services, as well as the county sheriff, who was known to be investigating human trafficking cases.  Because Reina didn’t fit the guidelines for child protection, social services called Marisa Ugarte of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition (BSCC), who interviewd her at the police station.  Marisa later described the girl she found: “She wore a tiny miniskirt and a jacket and was so overpainted that you almost couldn’t recognize her real face.  She looked to be between tena nd fifteen years older than her real age.  her hair was short and dyed brown, her mouth was small, she had the eyes of a dreamer and a very seductive attitude.  When we began to interview her she broke down and out came an agonized human being, drowning in pain.”

Marisa didn’t know Reina, but she knew all about her situation. For months Marisa and the other members of the BSCC had been telling anyone who would listen that there were sex camps in the fields around San Diego.  At first the Mexican consulate didn’t believe them, so they turned to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); then consulate asked for a formal complaint supported by concrete evidence.  A few weeks later, Reina escaped.  Soon the BSCC was helping to coordinate a raft of agencies in building a case against Arturo and his employers, the Salazar crime family. In Mexico, the police and social services stepped in to rescue Reina’s daughter.  Reina began to heal slowly, but her recovery was rocky.  Although the infections and injuries of her body could be treated, her mind was much more difficult to mend.  At times she would tell her story and testify; at other times her mind would crack and she would regress to childhood, losing touch with reality.  Many of her abusers melted away, and with Reina swinging between clarity and confusion, she was deemed an unreliable witness. Other girls, fearing for their families, refused to testify.  Two of the three Salazar brothers went to prison for lesser crimes; the oldest brother remains free.

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