Thursday, February 09, 2006

The slave trade--alive and flourishing in every country including this one

I interrupt the regularly scheduled post, a follow-up to "Chi choen? - What's the point?," to acknowledge a heightened awareness to the human trafficking going on, perhaps in our very neighborhoods--yours and mine.

Think you are immune? That it does not affect you?

Read on and tell me what you think at the end.

The other night I stumbled across a PBS Frontline report on the sex-slave trade in Europe. Not that it occurs only in Europe. There is more than enough going around every city of the United States. (See Sex Trafficking of Women in the United States."

In their report, the Frontline producers told the story of a Moldavian husband in his desperate search to get his kidnapped wife back from the violent pimp to whom their acquantaince had sold her in Turkey.

Sex slavery and atrocities against women are not new, of course. Inexplicably, men--and all too often their female procurers/enforcers--have been enslaving women, children, even other men for millenia.

Is it merely naivete that makes me think by now we human beings should have learned to behave better?

Watching the Moldavian family through their ordeal, hearing the stories of the other 4 women the story profiled, listening to the bravado of the kidnapper who got caught and slapped with 5 years probation, trying to wrap my mind around the appalling statistics--all left me nearly paralyzed with despair.

What hope can there be for the human family when such cruelty continues unabated?

The fact that men across the socio-economic spectrum in every country--read doctors, lawyers, dentists in any city in the USA--buy women, abuse them, rape them, force them to perform unimaginable acts, beat them, then go home to their families and behave, presumably, like gentlemen, is beyond cognition.

Do you know someone like this? Do you understand what causes this behavior?

Do you know how to heal the wounded souls who perpetuate this flourishing business? For it is only in healing the perpetrators that the business of sex, domination, power, and slavery will wither and die.

Frontline reported that one woman, trafficked and sold to a pimp in Turkey, escaped and ran to the car of a police officer who immediately returned her to her captors.

It has always been so. Madames and pimps know that when police and judges participate, chances of being raided and shut down are slim.

There is to be no rescue, no respite for women sold into slavery.

In Ordinary, of course, where human beings are raised from infancy with love and taught to respect all other beings, these things do not happen. Indeed, such behavior was unheard of in Ladakh before Westernization. (See Learning from Ladakh.)

In our lives, yours and mine, these things exist every single day.

Not long after I moved to this city, police raided two homes in a neighborhood where I had only shortly before looked for housing. It was a nice neighborhood. The properties were well kept.

Dozens of young women, smuggled into this country, were imprisoned in the homes, whose exterior revealed nothing of the atrocities occurring inside, and forced into prostitution.

In this extraordinarily beautiful city, in this country where we think of ourselves as egalitarian, democratic and civilized, in homes not so far from my own, men--possibly my neighbors?--were buying women who had no immigration documentation, no way out of their locked rooms, no escape.

How to feel compassion for the men--and the women who assist them--who would use other human beings so?

How to respond with love toward those whose actions are void of any shred of kindness?

How to heal the psyche of perhaps an entire nation, a world, that makes violence against women a regular part of our entertainment diet?

How to put a stop to the notion that one human being has a right to use another?

As so often before, I hear the words of Pema Chadron, "Start where you are."

Where are you in this? Where do you think we should start?


  1. How to feel compassion ...

    How to respond ...

    I wish I knew. I resist and struggle against admitting that, sometimes, some people are beyond help. But this is not true of children. Perhaps we can't help those commiting these inhuman acts but we can work to free their victims and to instill a sense of compassion in children so they do not become abusers.

  2. Children are our hope of changing humanity's future. But who trains the children?

    If sick people teach their children how to be sick, children grow up sick, and the cycle continues.

    I understand that for change to occur, the individual must be motivated to change.

    Yet, to say we can't help those who commit these atrocities may sometimes reflect more about the limitations of the helper, than the one needing or being helped.

    Perhaps the helper's skill level is limited, or they lack a full understanding of the need, or they're not listening, or their own biases are in the way, or, as often happens, their community's laws, policies, procedures and services are misguided, insufficient, and biased.

    Children are not beyond help, and neither are adults. Compassion in action can make a difference.

    And no-tolerance policies must be considered.

  3. Thank you both for your comments.

    I first learned of the concept of having compassion for the perpetrator of a violent act when studying the great Bodhisattva, Qwan Yin (Chinese), also known as Tara (Indian).

    In her book The Bond Between Women--A Journey to Fierce Compassion,China Galland confronts issues of torture and sexual brutality on her pilgrimage to the sites of various female deities, including Tara, whose compassion has won over violence.

    A victim of child-rape herself, Galland resists learning about the child sex-slave trade in Nepal.

    Having finally gone to visit the two women who rescue a few of the hundreds of thousands of children sold (often by their parents) into slavery, then thrown out when they contract AIDS and are no longer useful, China is appalled at the subsequent instruction of a spiritual leader.

    He suggests that she show the same compassion for the people who torture, beat, and sometimes kill the children that she feels for the victims.

    Later Galland comes to understand the Buddhist teaching that we are all connnected.

    We are each the victim. We are each the kidnapper/torturer/rapist/murderer.

    This is reminiscent of the old saying, "Until all are free [torturers too?], none are free."

    Can compassion heal the torturer's heart?

    Perhaps. I suggest an experiment on a much closer level in Making peace.


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