April 16 was the 153rd anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Washington, D.C. More than 3,000 enslaved persons were freed in the District on that date in 1862, eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation called for the end of slavery on Jan. 1, 1863. To mark the anniversary, a fundraising event dedicated to preventing child trafficking was held in Georgetown at M29 Lifestyle.
Human trafficking – the trade in human beings, mostly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others – is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world today. It may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy.
Every day, young women and children are being bought and sold, used and tortured. In Washington, D.C., alone, trafficking innocent children is a $100,000 business. Two individuals, and the organizations they founded to help prevent human trafficking, are described below.
Founder, Innocents at Risk
Deborah Sigmund is the founder and director of Innocents at Risk, a nonprofit organization established to help stop the trafficking of women and children. Its mission is to educate citizens about the issue of global and local human trafficking. “We are dedicated to protecting children from all forms of abuse, and work to end child exploitation and child trafficking everywhere,” Sigmund says.
Officially launched in 2005, Innocents at Risk has been working since then to raise awareness about child trafficking in America. The organization regularly presents at seminars nationwide. Sigmund believes that people need to know that children are being targeted, kidnapped and abused.
In addition to their seminars, Innocents at Risk launched a Flight Attendant Initiative program in 2008. “Through this program, many lives have been saved,” Sigmund said.
Because many people don’t know what actions they can take – some aren’t even familiar with the term human trafficking – Innocents at Risk has partnered with the Department of State and Homeland Security to make the public aware of this issue. “In every single aspect, we need people to create awareness,” Sigmund said.
Dr. Ludy Green
Founder, Second Chance Employment Services
Dr. Ludy Green is an expert on U.S. domestic violence and human trafficking issues, as well as an internationally acclaimed speaker. Green founded Second Chance Employment Services (SCES) to help women at risk find stable employment and assist them in achieving financial independence.
SCES was founded in February 2001. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the organization educates, trains and places women in meaningful long-term careers, providing them with the financial independence and confidence they need to take care of themselves and their children.
Green has created an alternative approach to survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other forms of extreme oppression. In her book ”Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom,” the link between financial independence and freedom is drawn. A tool to help victims of domestic abuse, the book details Green’s volunteer experience at My Sister’s Place, which led her to a better understanding of the importance of economic independence. Her next goal is to have the book included in university curricula.
SCES’s placement program specializes in helping clients from shelters, faith-based organizations and other nonprofits. The organization works with companies that are interested in offering priority placement to SCES’s clients, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Macy’s, SunTrust Bank and IBM. SCES also provides comprehensive employment services throughout the community.