No Rainbows and Unicorns for Black Girls in Trouble
By Dianne Anderson
Sex trafficking is not an easy everyday conversation for most people, which is probably why so many young girls can be an easy target, particularly young Black girls and girls of color.
Ashley Hill is also baffled at how such a booming multi-billion dollar global industry stays hidden or ignored.
For over five years, she had worked with local foster youth, going into group and foster homes to provide case management and therapeutic services. It was there that she realized the extent of the problem.
“Traffickers and pimps are coming to the homes, they’re scaring the staff and the girls, they’re recruiting within the homes. It’s a huge problem that’s not really being talked about,” said Hill, founder of the nonprofit Magdalen As Daughters.
Starting May 3, Hill is bringing together parents and students to talk about the problem, and solutions to help shape school based human trafficking curriculum so kids can learn how not to be victims.
She is inviting the community to RSVP. Participants will get a $10 Amazon gift card per session, and those that finish the 10-workshops will also receive an additional $100. She said there are some spots left.
In the United States and globally, young girls have been increasingly recruited and groomed through online platforms since the pandemic. Kids now are always logged online and on social media, and traffickers know how to strike up the conversation.
“What’s going on in your life? That’s when they say, this is what I can do for you. I’ll be your boyfriend or girlfriend, I’ll give you money and drugs,” she said.
Trust comes easy because love is almost as important as money to the kids. For the young and unsuspecting, it’s how sexual exploitation starts, and the cycle of abuse continues.
“Traffickers threaten and say I’ll kill your family, and so these kids are less likely to tell on their trafficker. It makes it difficult to get them prosecuted. It’s like a silent crime,” she said.
But it’s a win-win for the trafficker. The pimp is not at risk of arrest, they are not abused or raped. She said their profit off the girls is huge with no liability, which is why so many gang members and drug dealers are playing.
In San Bernardino, the largest county in the country, there is no residential placement for foster youth who are victims of human trafficking, she said. In the group homes she went into, there were attempts to recruit within the homes. She said it’s a huge problem, especially with six girls in a home.
“If a girl is under the manipulation of a pimp, they’re trying to get other girls to come along,” she said
At 18 years, youth can leave foster care if they want, but usually, they have no life skills. It sets them up for street work.
“I have clients who were victims of human trafficking and they didn’t know what it was,” she said. “A child’s brain doesn’t fully develop until the 20s. They [can’t identify] when someone is manipulating.”
A recent fact sheet by the National Black Women’s Justice Institute shows poverty and economic disadvantage that sets Black girls and women of color as victims of human trafficking more than other races in America.
They report that Blacks represent 39% of those experiencing homelessness, and Blacks are also over-represented in the child welfare or criminal legal systems. In foster care, 23% of youth are Black girls and 44% of women in jail are Black. It’s taking a serious mental health toll. The study cites suicide death rates for Black girls ages 13 to 19 increased by 182% from 2001 to 2017.
Hill emphasizes the importance of getting into information into the schools, and for school districts to get feedback on what parents think.
“Unfortunately, it’s not like this rainbow, butterfly, unicorn topic,” she said. “It’s happening and we don’t want our kids to be vulnerable to people who use manipulation, force and control to victimize our kids.”
Also coming up on May 21, the nonprofit is hosting an Anti-Human Trafficking Walk for Youth. Tickets start at $25 for the fundraising walk. The keynote speaker is Sentoya Brown Long, imprisoned at age 16 for a self-defense killing of the man who purchased her from her pimp for sex. Advocates including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian rallied nationally and Brown Long was granted clemency after 15 years in prison.
She will be the featured speaker. Edwin Johnson with CHORDS youth will be performing.
A 2021 U.S. state department “2021 Trafficking in Persons Report” describes how worldwide human sex trafficking increased during the pandemic, with input from survivors on how systemic racism intersects with human trafficking in the United States.
“Human trafficking continues to be a critical threat to Black communities. We need better support that doesn’t criminalize survivors but protects our rights instead. Standing in solidarity with Black lives also means speaking up for the injustices plaguing Black communities that are overwhelmed with trafficking victims,” said Lyresh Magee, Entrepreneur, Cosmetologist, Graduate from the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking in Los Angeles
To participate in the group sessions, or learn more about the walk, see www.magdalenasdaughters.org
For more information, see www.nbwji.org and their study https://bit.ly/39drOhL
For the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Report, see https://www.cbcfinc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/SexTraffickingReport3.pdf