Sunday, February 7, 2010

Miami Human Trafficking Outreach Day4

3:30 AM
We made it back to Tampa safely on Saturday. After extreme amounts of exhaustion, we decided to skip the last Saturday afternoon outreach and start our trek home. We were pretty beat, and the drive home was pretty quiet, which gave me some time to process this whole event. Here are my final musings, thoughts, ponderings, and ramblings from the weekend...

This was my first trip to Miami. I really didn't know what to expect. Obviously, South Beach is known for its party environment and the Vegas mindset of “What happens here, stays here”. But I don't think I was prepared for the poverty in Miami as well. As a transient/destination city it makes sense, but I didn't expect to see one side of the street lined with Jags & Bentleys and other with homeless. Or to see throngs of people sitting and enjoying 4-star cuisine and others sitting and starving. In my eyes it was completely obvious. Friday night, my outreach group and I were on South Beach for 12 hours, so we were eating dinner on Lincoln Ave. at a great little pizza place. We were stuffed by the amount of food that came with what we ordered and didn't know how we would finish it all. But then we look not 10 feet to our left, and there is an older woman sitting alone and buttering a small piece of french bread as she guards her possessions from foot traffic. We pile our leftover food [and it was a pile!] onto a plate and I take it to her. She eagerly accepted and nodded her thanks. As we talked, we continued to watch her eat the mound of food we gave her...until a nearby shop owner hassled her away from his window, and she and her plate were gone. We were just in awe throughout the weekend at the amount of money being spent for food, clothes, drinks, and hotels right in the midst of such poverty.

Another sad observation I made was the general attitude of law enforcement we encountered. Friday night as we were walking Lincoln Ave., we came across a group of 8 or 9 cops who were on South Beach patrol. We informed them of our outreach and more specifically of the track we discovered not too far from where we were. As soon as we mentioned “prostitution” their faces closed up and they wanted to stop talking to us. It just breaks my hear that the perception of most people [from police officers to the average citizen] is that the women are to blame for this illegal activity. But since the majority of the girls are organized and owned by a pimp, they are under his control and coercion, he is the one to place the blame on. The girls become a victim. And if the girl is under 18, she is automatically considered a victim of domestic minor sex trafficking. I guess I've been doing this for so long that my reaction to these girls is to get off them off the streets, give them somewhere to stay, get them help, not lock them up and charge them. I know this is such a complicated area to explain and make sense of. But until we can change the public's perception of these women and children who are being prostituted, our job will never get easier. These victims will never be rescued if they are always viewed as criminals. It's a sick cycle. Also, when we encountered the girl being verbally abused by her pimp, we made visible effort to wave down a police car from across the street, who just sped off the other way, without even stopping.

Through all of this my perception of the Super Bowl has changed dramatically. My eyes were first opened to the seedy underworld of this event last year during the Tampa outreach, but Miami was a whole new ballgame [no pun included]. The Super Bowl, which is promoted as less of a football game, but more of a party and celebration, practically rolls out the red carpet for these pimps and their women. Events sponsored by Maxim, Victoria's Secret, and Playboy only further encourage this super sexualized party environment which brings out even more activity. In fact, the Miami New Times ran an article entitled “Super Bowl guide to sex, drugs, gambling, and living large in South Florida”. This article decodes escort ads, allowing johns to learn the lingo used in personal ads. It also includes a how-to guide on recognizing if your prostitute is a cop. It even tells you how to “Score Coke Like a Local”...and I'm betting it's not Coca-Cola. I can't tell you how many people I met that don't believe that the Super Bowl drives this kind of activity. But you don't have to believe that article. Or log onto Craigslist where you can see the 250 personal ads placed over the past 3 days [over 75 posted Saturday alone] for women seeking men in Miami and 520 ads for men seeking women over the past 3 days [150 of those posted on Saturday as well!]. The pimps are not stupid. They follow the money from all over the country. When their idols like Snoop, Ludacris, Akon, and others head to South Beach for the big game, they are right there too, with their “ladies” in tow to score some extra cash from all those traveling sports fan who are blowing off some cheer for their team...without the family...with excessive amounts of alcohol available. Sounds like the recipe for disaster.

Which leads me to my final rambling...the demand. This awful crime of sex trafficking will never end until the demand for it does. Instead of letting johns off the hook and looking the other way when a buddy picks up a call girl, these men need to be exposed for what they really are. Rapists. Sex against someone's will is rape. If the girls are working underage or working for a pimp, someone is being forced to do something they do not want to be doing. As I witnessed so vividly last night on South Beach. I believe I will see the end of modern-day slavery in my lifetime, which is why I have dedicated myself to doing my part to eradicate it from our globe. I've been changed by this event, by the faces I saw, the people I worked with, and with the city of Miami. It has motivated me to work that much harder at this cause and to pray every day for God to rescue these women.

About the author

Joy Muldoon is a full-time missionary and part-time blogger. Read about her travels, adventures, and missions here!


Well written, well articulated and I add only one additional piece of data to your blog article: In addition to the pimps, the John's share the blame - w/o addressing the demand side of the equation, the supply side continues to be encouraged.

All the best,

Joy Engdahl said...

I completely agree! I briefly touched on the demand side of things at the end of my post, but I could really write an entire post about just that. This wouldn't even be an issue if there was no demand...

Thanks for your comment!

I've learned a lot reading your posts about the outreach in Miami, Joy. Very well done and you showed what is happening there with a lot of emotion and you-are-there details.

I linked to you on my (Feb. 10 post).

Keep up the great work!

Diana Scimone
The Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking

Joy Engdahl said...

Hey Diana!

Thanks for the connection. I'm thrilled so many people are learning about our outreach! Love your organization's work, keep up the fight!! Nice to meet you fellow abolitionist!