Glasgow Gets Educated About Human Trafficking
This is the second of two stories on human trafficking and survivor Windie Lazenko's visit to Glasgow, where she spoke during events with high school students and then adults.
As the adults gathered later in the evening, she told some of the same stories. She explained that her experience catapulted her into a life of self destruction. Around 30 law enforcement, community members and concerned citizens came to learn about not only the dangers and risks that faced our youth, but how they could be aware.
"I tell this story because it has a very common thread," she said to the adults.
She went on to explain how these predators seek out girls, and boys, and learn to become a confidant. They become the boyfriend, they listen to what teens have to say.
"He knows her hurts, he knows her desires and he knows all about her," said Windie Lazenko, an advocate, speaker and survivor of human trafficking during her recent Glasgow visit.
She explained that the first time often is a rape which is videotaped. They threaten to show that video to family members, to school officials. They threaten to take siblings, to hurt family members. She explained that people get murdered, raped and treated like animals.
"This is wrong, it's wrong on every level – it has to take a collaborative effort," she said. "They're passing through your community and they know where your kids are."
She said that breaking the demand is something everyone could do. Explaining that pornography might seem like it's victimless, but often the girls are threatened into doing it. She said a simple way people can combat the growing demand and growing market it to not be involved in porn.
She spoke about a man on the train to Williston who talked to her about what she would be stepping into. He explained that while he was working in the oil fields the men were ordering girls on backpage.com. He heard one man ask for an 11-year-old. At first he thought it was a joke, but he realized later it was serious.
Trouble In Williston
When she stepped off the train and started to tour Williston, she said that the hotels were operating as brothels, and there was a strange phenomenon she hadn't seen before – the pimps weren't even hiding. She said that it was because they knew the community didn't have the resources, they lacked the knowledge and were overwhelmed with other crimes to do anything about it.
"These girls won't work with law enforcement – they're trauma bonded to their traffickers," she said.
She added that often if they found themselves in a domestic violence shelter, they often ran from them and didn't feel comfortable. They usually are shamed from being the "home wrecker, the whore, the slut" and more. She said that sometimes if they're caught in a domestic violence shelter, they are even told to recruit women from those shelters and then still beaten after bringing the trafficker another girl.
The community was warned that talking to these girls and offering them help can be a dangerous task. Girls can be beaten for talking to strangers. She said the best thing to do is to call law enforcement and give them the tip. Unfortunately with a lack of resources in the area and a lack of training it hasn't helped much, but she's been working to help educate and bring in more resources. She's been working with the FBI and the Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) in North Dakota. She said that in the last year she's served over 20 girls, "and there's more."
One girl she kept safe so she could testify and put her trafficker behind bars for a long time. The girl felt like running several times, but she was convinced to stick it out and they were able to get a conviction.
She spoke directly to law enforcement and said that they needed to be aware if they were involved in a drug bust – that law enforcement needed to be aware and work to identify victims. That a collaborative effort could at least help slow down and minimize trafficking.
"We're not going to stop every girl, we're not going to stop every guy, but we can minimize it," she said.
Questions from the community gave them a chance to follow up with extra information. One question was what a typical day was like in Williston. She said that because they didn't have a temporary shelter for the girls, that some days would start at 7 a.m. and go until 4 a.m. trying to track girls and educate. She said that other issues were that girls were often without any kind of identification, which made it difficult to move them to safer and more permanent programs.
"Right now it's a lot of figuring stuff out," she said.
When asked about funding, she explained that she spent time testifying in North Dakota and was able to help the state grant $1 million in funding towards the problem, but that money would be dispersed and would go towards training programs and pilot programs, that they'd only receive a small portion at her organization, 4her North Dakota. It's a program that she hope to replicate in other states across the country after they get set up.
"The battle for money right now is horrible," she said.
She explained that a shelter safe house for just six girls a year would cost $500,000 a year to operate and maintain. She said that currently her take home salary only came from speaking events, and that the donations she has received has helped move her program.
The question on why girls don't just leave their life was asked. She explained how girls would be battered, brainwashed and caused emotional trauma, which would keep them there. Much like a domestic violence situation, the girls would be intimidated to stay.
One audience member asked about the Native American reservations, the kind of dangers there for human trafficking victims. Lazenko said that they are at a very high risk. She said that they are seeing generational trafficking in the reservations and that many of the youths are abused before they become trafficked and that abuse is in a way the normal.
"They're a very vulnerable community," she said. "We need more than me, we need more advocates."
When asked what to do if people believed that they saw it, she explained how to report it. She said the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (1-888-373-7888), or the Polaris project were good resources.
"This is organized crime," she said. "Just be aware and then take action and be part of the solution."