A CLOSER LOOK: human trafficking; an online divide of differing beliefs

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At 8 years old, my mom sex trafficked me so she could pay rent.

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — In recent weeks, a movement has developed around child trafficking and sexual abuse.

A few marches are planned in Arkansas regarding this type of crime/abuse. And, participating in marches, whether in Arkansas or anywhere across the U.S., should come with some precautions.

You may want to first find out, who set this movement in motion.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the 4th Judicial District of Arkansas Kevin Metcalf knows about child trafficking, cyber intelligence, and counterterrorism.

Metcalf is the founder of the National Child Protection Task Force (NCPTF). He has spoken in detail about trafficking experiences, views, and opinions. He’s an international leader in missing persons and counter-human trafficking, with insights on synthesizing open and closed information to support missing person recovery in the U.S. and globally.

Metcalf told KNWA/FOX24 that he finds the politicizing of emotional issues like this is distracting and troubling.

He advises people to search online from trusted sources, such as Polaris Project.

“If you don’t see them [Polaris Project, as one example] pushing out organizations, you need to question the validity of the source,” said Metcalf. “You need a trusted organization. Something valid.”

As for trafficking, most children are abused by those in their circle of trust, such as mom, for example. “Usually if kids run away, they’re running for a reason,” said Metcalf.

“Conspiracy theories, with no basis in fact, are distracting us from a real awareness of child trafficking here in the U.S. It is creating another political divide that will serve to separate people and distract from the reality we are facing in both awareness and taking action.”

NCPTF Founder Kevin Metcalf

SEARCY COUNTY, ARKANSAS, AND SAFETY

The Searcy County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD) made a Facebook statement about staying safe while wearing masks, But, also mentions human trafficking in the post. Searcy County Sheriff Kenny Cassell said there was not an underlying message except to “curb crime overall.” For example, he described a crime involving a person wearing a mask and hoodie and robbing a place of business.

The county seat is Marshall, and the population is about 1,200.

“This is not about [just] wearing masks this is about crime happening all around us be very aware of your surroundings!! Statewide mandated mask orders are in effect for many states. Limit distractions when out alone, pay attention to your surroundings, and keep your children within arm’s length. If you think that the biggest human trafficking hot spots in the country are bad now…just wait when every stranger is suddenly anonymous and unidentifiable… Be vigilant and don’t become a victim.”

Searcy County Sheriff’s Department

VICTIM’S STORY, BARBARA JEAN WILSON

Barbara Jean Wilson. Book author of, “Mute but now I speak,” written in 2003. (Used with permission).

Meet Barbara Jean Wilson, 65. A sex abuse survivor.

“From the age of 8 to 13 years, I was sexually abused and trafficked by my mom,” said Wilson.

The family lived in New York, and her parents divorced years earlier.

Her first abuser was her mother’s boyfriend. “When I told my mom what happened, she said not to tell anyone because that’s how the rent was getting paid.”

Wilson said her mom would bring over different men, some were even family friends. There would always be ample drugs and alcohol.

“Once, I got enough courage to say, ‘no,’ to one of the men,” said Wilson. “He put a gun to my head and said, ‘no one tells me what to do.’ And, of course, I did what I was told.”

The gun-to-the-head moment, and other circumstances, affected Wilson in many ways. Especially because her mom did not protect her and no one noticed a change in her demeanor.

“I was disrespectful to adults, teachers, and bullying kids in the classroom,” said Wilson.

If the teachers called and talked to her mom about Wilson’s disruptive behavior, she would get beat when she got home from school, and she would still have to perform.

Wilson was thrown out of the house at 13 and pregnant at 15.

She continued the lifestyle she learned at a young age, selling her body for sex.

“I became a prostitute and did drugs because that’s what I was taught,” she said.

“In hindsight, the fact that what happened to me, no one recognized it, not even my teachers. I found out later family members knew but did nothing to help me,” said Wilson.

Just 10 years ago, she found out her dad knew all along she was being sold for sex as a means to pay the rent.

“I knew it was wrong, but I wondered why my mother allowed this to happen, why didn’t she protect me? Instead, she told me to keep quiet about it. The trust I would have had with my mother was broken. I couldn’t even look to her for protection. And I couldn’t look to anyone else, she was the adult. Who else could I run to, and who would believe me?

Barbara Jean Wilson, sexual abuse/trafficked as a child survivor

She hoped that someone would come and save her, but that never happened.

Wilson, 16, with a child in tow, went back to her mother’s home but was thrown out again.

The teen mom and daughter then rented a room from a woman whose daughter was Wilson’s friend.

She continued prostituting and doing drugs until she was 20 years old.

“I was protective of my child, but my friend’s parents were telling me I needed to spend more time with my daughter,” said Wilson.

Another friend of the family offered to take Wilson’s daughter so she could get herself together. “No papers were signed,” said Wilson. “They took her [my child] and she was with them for about four years.”

Wilson’s way of life did not change. She lived place-to-place, still prostituted, used drugs, and drank alcohol.

She did find a legitimate job.

Wilson was taken to the hospital when she got sick at work. After emergency surgery, she spent weeks in intensive care.

The doctor called family members because he thought she would die.

“My doctor said, ‘I don’t even know how you had a child.’ So, I guess my child is a blessing,” said Wilson.

At 22, Wilson had her own place and her child, but was still selling her body, doing drugs and drinking.

It was an overdose at the age of 25 that made her change her ways for the better.

“God came to me and said, ‘enough is enough and you need to stop what you’re doing. You’re gonna’ kill yourself, you’re gonna die,'” said Wilson.

This was the second time God had come to her, and this time it was her daughter she saw, but with God’s words.

“This really made me think about my daughter, and if I don’t change, I’ll die, my daughter could be raised by my mom, and the abuse cycle may repeat,” said Wilson.

Wilson listened and realized she had a reason to live — it was for her daughter.

She got a GED, and over the next 20 years, she worked with the FAA and then at a law firm.

In the mid-90s, Wilson’s mom became ill, and she took care of her. According to Wilson, her mom said, “I destroyed your life and I messed you up … it’s not right … can you forgive me?” Her mom died in 1993.

At 50, Wilson graduated college.

Barbara Jean Wilson with her daughter Tawanna LaShawn Wilson. Family photo used with permission.

BARBARA JEAN WILSON’S WORDS

The book author and motivational speaker tells victims to not blame themselves. If they get the right help they can live a fulfilled life. I share my story, and for those who are victims, they are free to reach out to me.

ORGANIZATIONS THAT FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING

How to protect your children from human trafficking

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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