Friday, May 8, 2009

hard to believe this happens

This week I watched an episode on PBS's Frontline called Sex Slaves about sex trafficking. The documentary was filmed in Eastern Europe (women from Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and Hungary were trafficked into Istanbul, Turkey) but this practice is a multimillion dollar global industry.

It can start with women answering classified ads for waitresses, maids, and other legitimate jobs but, more often, someone who knows the women will tell them they can make money in another country. The documentary followed a trafficker named Olga who promised women domestic jobs in Instabul for $200 weekly pay. Some of the women did in fact get the legitimate jobs they were promised. Olga took others across the border, met up with men who paid for the women (in one instance $1,000), and told the women to go with the men, that they'd be fine. The women were then taken to an apartment (in one story, 22 girls lived in a three-bedroom apartment) and beaten and raped by the traffickers before being told they needed to work as prostitutes in order to pay off their debt. The women were raped 24 hours a day by customers, often between 10 and 25 men a night. They were also beaten regularly, at least once a day. After some time of this, the women were often sold to other traffickers, making it impossible for them to repay their debt.

That this is a common practice that happens regularly today is both frightening and heartbreaking. But, what's even worse, is that there's so little help or even empathy for these women. When traffickers are caught and charged, they often serve no jail time. Olga, the trafficker that the Frontline producers filmed trafficking women three years ago when the documentary first aired, was never arrested and is still living in Moldova.

Still feeling a little sick to my stomach thinking of this, I logged on to the local news today to see two back-to-back headlines: one about a puppy found killed and burned and another about a cat killed with an arrow. Sex trafficking and animal abuse are two different issues, I know, but underlying both is depravity, cruelty, and evil that is hard to imagine existing in so many people today.

But, it does.

Image from PBS's website.