Trafficking survivor, human rights advocate speaks Tuesday

 Illustration by: Megan Rowe

Illustration by: Megan Rowe

The Women's Resource and Action Center (WRAC) has booked Theresa Flores, a human rights advocate and sex trafficking survivor, to speak in the Kirby Ballroom on Jan. 30 at 6 p.m.

At 15, Flores was blackmailed into becoming a sex slave.

For WRAC intern Carly Hiti, having Flores speak is an eye-opening experience.

“[Flores] was living at home with her parents, going to school and living a normal life,” Hiti said. “But she was still being sex trafficked.”

Called the modern-day slavery by antislavery.org, human trafficking is a worldwide problem. Human trafficking is defined as, “ recruitment, harbouring or transporting people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forced to work against their will.” Women make up 72 percent of people exploited in the sex industry, according to the same site.

“I personally appreciate Theresa’s story because it defies all stereotypes about sex trafficking since she [was] a white, middle class, 15-year-old,” Hiti said. “Her story reiterates that being sex trafficked can happen to anybody.”

The age Flores was trafficked is not a rarity. According to dosomething.org, 12-14 years old is the average age teens enter the sex trade.

Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P.) is an organization founded by Flores. “The S.O.A.P. Project is specifically focused on educating and increasing awareness in the public on the prevalence of human trafficking,” according to a statement on S.O.A.P.’s website.

“[The organization] also makes bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number on them,” Hiti said. “They’re put in hotels where they know that pimps are bringing young girls … in hopes they get a chance to go to the bathroom and have a chance to call.”

Hiti recognizes that it can be uncomfortable for those seemingly unaffected by human trafficking, but ignoring the problem will not help.

“People just choose not to acknowledge things that are happening because it makes them uncomfortable,” Hiti said. “As uncomfortable as it is talking about sex trafficking, imagine how uncomfortable it is being sex trafficked.”

Helping survivors of sex trafficking and assault heal is another problem. WRAC provides confidential help for any victims of sexual assault. They work with Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) to help.

“We are trained through PAVSA, we refer anything like that directly to PAVSA,” Hiti said.

Advocates from PAVSA are also in the WRAC office, located in the multicultural center, every Monday and Thursday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. this semester.

Theresa Flores’ talk is on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. in the Kirby Ballroom. For help, go to PAVSA at 32 East 1st Street Suite 200 Duluth, MN, or call their crisis hotline at 218-726-1931. The WRAC office is also available in the multicultural center or by email at wrac@d.umn.edu.

NewsJakob Bermas