When the topic of human trafficking is brought up, most would never consider Nevada as being a major contributor and yet Las Vegas ranks number one as the primary location of sex trafficking in the world, according to information provided by the Southern Nevada Soroptimist International.
In an effort of educating the public, Mineral County’s local Soroptimist group, in combination with the Mineral County Public Library, has a traveling art exhibit on display entitled “Break These Chains” for the month of May.
The community and visitors are invited to view these striking and insightful displays of art, created by students across Nevada. These posters were judged and the winning pieces framed as they travel throughout the district north from Pahrump to Carson City. Hawthorne is the first city receiving this display, and then it will move to Yerington for the month of June.
“I know it is difficult to comprehend, but we were told that Super Bowl weekend in Vegas draws in the biggest risk of human trafficking and abduction issues because of the opportunity it provides,” Soroptimist Jan Heater explained.
Heater discussed that high-risk areas include bus stations and involves many immigrants or runaways coming to Las Vegas to experience a life of glamor or attempting to gamble for a big win. Instead, they are captured by professionals who lure them into seclusion and most are eventually sold off, traveling underground into other locations and countries.
The terms and situations are endless but include fringe situations such as “Submissively-arranged Marriages” or “Domestic and Involuntary Servitude” in which one is controlled into working and unable to leave. These are situations that many who are vulnerable in needing immediate money or food can quickly be trafficked into.
Human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment and exploitation for the benefit of providing labor or services to another by use of force, fraud or coercion.” Minors within the sex trade are considered victims and moves beyond all races, gender, class and other cultural boundaries.
The main warning is that a victim can range in all ages, be a U.S. citizen or immigrant and can come from any social-economic background. It has been defined as a “Modern-day slavery” with fingers of this criminal behavior far-reaching every continent and yet it can be as silently hidden as any neighbor, within any small town.
Due to the growth of this atrocity, the profitability has grown faster than the investigation and prosecution can handle. Trafficking generates billions of dollars with criminals ties and has experienced little exposure in comparison to the damage it has caused within communities of missing people. Since the Soroptimist organization is a global volunteer base it is committed to the cause of improving the lives of women and girls through programs and education to create empowerment. Awareness of this issue has developed into a non-profit effort to raise funds that can bring about public initiatives and provide social media exposure to this societal issue. The “Live Free” motto has been made into a song, been presented by flash mobs at awareness events and is available in internet videos.
In a brochure presented by the Southern Nevada Soroptimist International, the latest theme in prevention is the words “Break These Chains – Live Free”. It has been inscribed upon bracelets, passed out among cities, portrayed by students in artwork and is currently the action in which Nevada is striving to extend knowledge of exposing this criminal activity. The mission is to aid governmental agencies to provide services to victims, present information to avoid the pitfalls of human trafficking, present a stronger advocate voice to legislation and bring proper punishment to individuals and businesses that exploit human beings.