Since 2007, the European Union has marked October 18th as the EU Anti-Trafficking Day, and adopted the motto TOGETHER AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS. Many of us go through life without ever being confronted with this matter, mostly because we choose to hide from the horrors of life, such as sexual and labor exploitation, also known as modern slavery. I confess I rarely watch the news, not because I don’t care about what’s going on around the world, but simply to protect myself from the painful fury, knowing I can’t do much to make a difference.
I was only dimly aware that human trafficking existed, before I started writing The Plot, a book about a young Japanese girl who is lured to the USA with promises of well-paid work, then forced into prostitution by a Chinese organization. The book is fiction, of course, but the research I had to do while I was writing it is as ugly and traumatic as a raw wound. And just as real.
There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children. Approximately 19% of trafficking involves labor exploitation, and 80% consists of sexual exploitation, which comes in many forms, including: forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting victims to slavery or involuntary servitude, and compelling victims to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography.
It’s unspeakable, I know. The estimated cost of a slave is $90. In the 21st century, one can buy a slave for $90. This is the price our society puts on a person, body and soul. It’s hard to believe, even harder to accept. When I first read these statistics, the only thing I could think of was how could anyone fall into such a trap, or if they did, why couldn’t they run, why don’t they go to the police? The answers are quite simple, and I’ve illustrated the most important in The Plot: because the interlopers in trafficking organizations threaten the victims they would harm their families. It’s the simplest and most effective way to keep someone in line and bend them to your will. Who wouldn’t sacrifice themselves to save their family?
I know I would do anything to protect mine. And there are millions of people like me. So the only thing that can be done is to destroy the groups that do this. My heroine, Yoko, succeeded. But of course, fiction is not real life.