By: A~Z Hubbard, SAVED News Editor-In-Chief — Everyday millions of children, teens, and adults become victims of human trafficking. SAVED News spoke with Tara Warren, founder of Cry Freedom Missions, a non-profit organization committed to stopping human trafficking.
SAVED News: What inspired you to start Cry Freedom?
Tara Warren: I spent the past two years living in Texas touring with a Christian dance company called Ingredients. In the company, I not only learned how to become a better dancer, but what it meant to be a mover for Christ. I was able to work under some great leadership and meet some really amazing people. Ingredients Dance Company not only works on dance technique, but life technique as well.
While in this company we were able to perform quite a lot, but one of my absolute favorite performances was the one we did every year in May called Pink Impact. Pink Impact was a huge women’s conference held at Gateway Church in Dallas and women from all over the world would attend. While we weren’t performing, we were able to sit in and watch bits and pieces of the conference. It was here that I was able to hear Christine Caine speak for the first time. Christine Caine is the woman who founded the A21 Campaign that rescues victims of human trafficking and bring their traffickers to justice. They work with law enforcement in other countries and have their own shelters for the girls to start their rehabilitation. I had no idea what human trafficking was before she started speaking, but as she finished I felt something stirring inside of me.
I always had a passion, ever since I was a little girl, for human rights and for victims of abuse. I never knew that slavery still existed. I thought I went to Texas to study dance, but God had a whole other plan. After the conference was over, I went back to my little apartment and over the next two years I studied as much as I could on human trafficking. I wanted to know more and more. I read document after document and watched video after video. I began to tell everyone I could about trafficking. I wanted to spread awareness and inform people on this heinous act going on around the world, but after a while I knew that God was calling me to something higher.
I read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke and realized that I was the Levite or the Priest. I was not doing anything wrong, I was spreading awareness for trafficking! But I was passing by the “beaten man” and I wanted to be the hands and feet of Christ like the Good Samaritan! I didn’t just want to talk about it, I wanted to DO something about it….but what could I do? And then, after I moved back home this past May, Cry Freedom was born.
I had always been very crafty as a child. I was always making my parents little bracelets or earrings. I would even make jewelry (and it was UGLY) and I would sell them to family members for 50 cent at family reunions or family dinners. I think it is so funny looking back now how God was totally foreshadowing my life when I was just a little 7 year old selling bracelets for 50 cent to my family to 15 years later making and selling jewelry in order to rescue those trapped in bondage. It is so true that God will use your gifts and talents to glorify Him because I do know He would NEVER call me to be a lawyer or a doctor….this girl was NEVER good at school, hehe.
SN: What is human trafficking? What is the average age/gender of a person being abducted?
TW: Human trafficking comes in two forms: labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Labor trafficking occurs in contexts that can include all forms of labor and services, including domestic servitude, sweat shops, and farm laborers forced to work without pay. Sex trafficking occurs in contexts that encompass the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), as well as all adults who engage in a commercial sex act because of force, fraud, or coercion. The average age of a person being trafficked is usually between 12-14, but have been known to be sold as young as 5 years of age. The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million trafficked victims (55%) compared to 9.5 million (45%) men. Approximately 50% of trafficked victims are children.
SN: Where are the victims abducted from?
TW: The sad truth is that usually the victims of trafficking in the U.S. come from broken homes, runaways, bad home life. The pimps will romance them into the idea that they love them or they want to take care of them. They gain their trust over a period of time then they take them home, drug them, have them rape repeatedly and then they are sold into “the life.” They are living in constant fear for their life. They are told to make $550-$2,000 a night and if they come back with anything less they are severely beaten. In some cases, the parents will even sell their own children into trafficking to gain money for themselves. Just recently, a woman from Florida was selling her 6 year old daughter for exchange of drugs or money. Thankfully, this girl has been rescued and her mother as well as, two of her perpetrators have been arrested.
SN: What are the factors that contribute to trafficking? i.e. drugs, free labor, etc.
TW: For the traffickers or pimps the main thing they are after is money. Money is their driving force. They make $500 off of just one girl everyday, that is $24,000 a month and $642,000 a year tax free selling a girl for sex. They may do drugs as well, but their main concern is the money.
For the victims: Usually they are forced into the life and become addicted to drugs in the process to cope with their depression and their pain. They are not allowed to keep any of the money.
SN: Where are abductors getting the victims? i.e. kidnapping, parents selling them for drugs/alcohol, etc.
TW: Well like I said before, there are parents who do sell their children for drugs and money unfortunately. In the United states it works a little differently than in other countries. In other countries, like India for example, the young girls in the poor villages are offered jobs as maids in the big city and basically lured away from their family in order to support their family financially, then they are drugged and raped for the rest of their lives without their family even knowing OR their families sell them knowing what they are doing without the girls realizing where they are being taken. In the United States, although there are cases of many abductions, most traffickers or pimps prey are girls or boys from broken homes or families and lure them into the life. They either romance them and gain their trust or they kidnap them and beat them severely until they submit. There are many ways that these traffickers work, it just depends on their victim. They pinpoint their weakness and use it against them.
SN: What are clues and/or tale-tale signs to recognize that a child has been abducted?
TW: Many of the warning signs that a child is a victim of trafficking, or is being recruited, are similar to signs that the child is being cyberbullied or being groomed by a pedophile. They may include one or more of the following: unexplained absences, runs away or discusses running away from home, exhibits bruises, suddenly withdraws from social gatherings, displays depression, demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behavior becomes erratic, severe mood swings, suddenly has material possessions given to them by a “friend,” hides emails, text messages, or other online posts, and extreme change in online behavior – suddenly online all the time or suddenly not interested in being online
SN: Amazingly or not, North Carolina is ranked in the top 10 in the US. Why is NC ranked so high?
TW: Sadly, North Carolina is ranked in the top 10 for trafficking in the U.S. and out of the ten we were listed as number 5! All due to the network of highways, military bases, large agricultural and meat packing industries, growing immigrant population, and the fact that we’re a coastal state. Because of our major highways (I-95/I-40) we are constantly having traffickers push their girls through North Carolina.
SN: Where does Goldsboro/Wayne County rank?
TW: In the Wayne County Board of Health Official Meeting Record it states: Statistics state the time frame for 1/3 of children ending up on the street to be approached by a pimp would only be 48 hours.
SN: What can citizens do to aid in stopping human trafficking?
TW: Talk to their children about trafficking, anyone can become a victim.
Spread awareness. Once you have the knowledge, you are held responsible for what you decide to do with it.
Speak up. Whenever you see signs of a trafficking victim, call the trafficking hotline for the U.S. At 1(888) 373-7888.
Link up. Find a organization to donate to. Restore One is a great organization that help restore boys and men who have been victims of bondage and they are located right in Greenville, N.C. There are so many organizations to help support. In this world, it not only takes spreading awareness, but it does take money to finance the rehabilitation and care for these people. So I encourage people to get involved. Every penny counts.
SN: You make gorgeous jewelry and all proceeds goes to organizations that support stopping human trafficking. Where can your products be purchased? How do you select the organizations that you contribute to?
TW: Our products can be purchased online at our website www.cryfreedommissions.weebly.com
People can also follow us at www.facebook.com/cryfreedommissions or on Instagram at #cryfreedommissions and our email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Honestly the way we decide on the right organization is research and lots of prayer. We only move when God says to move. At first we were going to strictly donate to Operation Underground Railroad, but God wanted us to expand so we plan on sending to the A21 Campaign and Restore One as well. Our goal is to be able to send to dozens of organizations.
SN: What would you like to share with our readers regarding trafficking and your organization.
TW: I would love for our readers to know that there is something that EVERYONE can do to fight against trafficking. Only 1-2% of victims are rescued. We have the ability to CHANGE that entirely. 27 million people are in bondage worldwide. That is more that the entire population of Australia. Imagine if we had 27 million people fighting back. That is one person per victim. We would be able to finally abolish slavery in this world. We are to be the light in the darkness. It is time to shed some light on human trafficking. It is time for our generation to arise and make a difference in this world. All of Cry Freedom Missions proceeds go to organizations that pull these victims out of the darkness and gives them second chance at life. Not only do they rescue, but they also bring justice to their trafficker and in turn have saved 130 more girls from being trafficked just by putting away one pimp. It is time for us to speak up and to speak out for these victims whose voices have been taken from them. We hold the key to their FREEDOM.