Human Trafficking, which includes “forced labor, bonded labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, sex trafficking, and child commercial sex trade” is happening all across the country, including locally. Miriam Schauer, who is an active advocate against the matter, shares a few insights here in an effort to educate the community about what’s happening right under our noses.
Interview with Miriam Schauer
Where do you live?
I live in Wisconsin.
Do you have kids?
I have a 5-month-old son.
When did you start advocating against human trafficking?
I started around the beginning of COVID! I had found a random account that was talking about it and it kind of triggered a domino effect in my brain. A lot of dots started connecting and I realized what had been happening for years right in plain sight.
What exactly classifies as human trafficking?
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers use violence, manipulation, or the false promise of a well-paying job or romantic relationships to lure victims. (Epstein was brilliant at this last point.)
Please explain how human trafficking is happening among us and its disguises.
It is incredibly sad to say how possible it is that we have been in the presence of hundreds of trafficked children in our lifetime without ever realizing it. Some things to watch for (these are all found on the DHS website):
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
What are the facts and statistics?
The top three stats I like to give people are the following:
- 24.9 million people are currently in forced labor (it is not always sexual).
- 18-20k victims are trafficked into the USA every year.
- People of color (non Caucasian) are 4x more likely to get trafficked in the US.
Are there any myths?
I think a lot of times people think it will play out as one of those incidents that happen in a public setting. They stalk you inside a store and try to nab you in the parking lot. Although this does happen, it is more commonly something that will happen with people that you know. Close family friends that show a special interest in your children, etc.
Sometimes people think “if someone is in trouble, they’ll call for help.” This is rarely the case. Often you will not see a victim asking for help in a public setting. Typically, these people are manipulated into thinking if they were to ask for help, they (or their family) will be harmed.
Did Covid-19 crisis help facilitate human trafficking?
Absolutely. It has become much easier to transport children to and from locations and bring them out in public due to mask mandates all over the country. It is impossible to identify missing children and even read their facial expression when over half their face is covered. This pandemic is a trafficker’s dream come true to be quite honest.
We came across your story because Instagram canceled your previous account, and you are rebuilding your work. Tell us a bit about how and why that happened.
I had been vocal on trafficking for months leading up to this but had taken a bit of a step back. I picked back up on posting for about a day and a half until I opened my app 2 weeks ago and I was told I had gone against community guidelines but was never given any specifics. They took down my entire account that I had worked on for years. No warning, nothing. Just gone.
Are you thinking about changing your approach to avoid being blocked again on social media?
I plan to be even more vocal. The more people see the censoring on a real-life issue, the more they will wake up to the fact that we are being hid the truth.
How can we (community) help?
My favorite phrase is “knowledge is power” — without it we are unable to make a difference. The best thing we can do is learn about it and recognize when something looks off. Report child porn accounts on your socials. Educate your friends on the topic. Be LOUD.
Follow Miriam’s new Instagram account @sincerelymir.