While Alaska Airlines totes passengers from Seattle to San Francisco nearly 20 times a day, one passenger, in particular, was not prepared for landing in San Francisco six years ago.
In February 2017, Alaska Airlines flight attendant Shelia Fedrick was recognized for saving a young victim of sex trafficking six years prior.
The girl, who Fedrick described as bruised and around 14-15 years old, was sitting uncomfortably next to a man who was much older than her, which caused Fedrick to suspect something was wrong.
After the man accompanying the girl dismissed Fedrick’s attempt at conversation with the two, Fedrick decided to leave a note in the bathroom for the girl, who saw it soon after and left her own note for help on the back. Fedrick acted promptly and alerted the pilot, who notified authorities in San Francisco.
By the end of the flight, authorities were waiting at the terminal and made the arrest as soon as the plane landed. The rescued girl is now attending college, according to NBC news.
Fedrick’s bold rise to action was prompted by her training as a flight attendant to recognize unusual situations. Since then, airlines have taken even more progressive steps towards recognizing the victims of the world’s most chilling and pressing epidemic: the exploitation of humans in the global commercial sex trade.
While groups like Airline Ambassadors have taken the next step to be able to identify the victims of sex trafficking, the issue of modern-day slavery remains largely unaddressed by politicians and peers alike.
While President Donald Trump has vigorously addressed the issue of illegal immigrants, refugees and climate change, he has yet to address the topic of modern-day slavery with the same vigor.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Mon. May 1, Trump addressed sex trafficking as “a problem; (Bloomberg) should write something about at some point,” according to justsecurity.org.
It’s this attitude of blatant disregard for the sex trafficking industry fuels the ongoing lack of education and knowledge on the topic.
We at Scroll believe human trafficking is an issue that isn’t discussed enough, and needs to be addressed, both politically and socially, as nearly 20,000 of the victims of this invisible crime are being trafficked into and throughout the U.S.
There are an estimated 20.9 million adults and children are currently enslaved worldwide, with 4.5 million explicitly being sold for sex, and 2 million of these victims are children, according to the International Labour Organization.
With 600,000-800,000 victims being smuggled across international borders daily, sex trafficking has become an atrocity actively sweeping every nation, including our own, according to the U.S. State Department.
Still, it remains a taboo subject for most, and the victims of the largest slave trade history has remain unheard of, unseen, and undiscussed, with no promise of a Liam Neeson to release these 20 million modern-day slaves from bondage.
So, why aren’t people talking about it?
Tim Ballard, CEO and founder of Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit organization works to abolish sex slavery, has held events in Rexburg on numerous occasions. He said the eradication of an issue of this scale begins with awareness, especially among students on college campuses.
“We love to go to college campuses because it’s the college-aged generation that can push the message,” Ballard said. “It’s the generation of social media; just getting the word out gives you the ability to push the message out to those who can help us. The goal is to be ultra-aware of the selling of people to the point where, when people see something, they’ll be able to report it.”
Ballard said the most important thing to take away from sex trafficking education is: if you see something, say something.
While the statistics in number are shocking, education on the issue isn’t solely based on the numbers; it’s knowing when, why, how and where sex trafficking begins and takes place, worldwide and within the U.S.
Ed Smart, O.U.R. director of rehabilitation and prevention, said education is the number one method of prevention for sex trafficking, both in cases of avoiding becoming a victim and knowing when to report an issue.
“I actually have come across some college students where it happened to them when they were in college,” Smart said. “It happened basically because of a boyfriend, or someone who pretended to be a boyfriend, and that happens to be one of the biggest ways that it happens here in the United States. Here in the US, there are a couple of different ways that trafficking happens. Any time there is a point of vulnerability, that is the point that these predators will feed on, and they know exactly what to do and what to say to coerce a victim into the trafficking industry.”
Knowing the signs of a sex trafficking victim could save a life, as Sheila Fedrick did on the Alaska Airlines flight six years ago.
According to polarisproject.org, since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline operated by Polaris has received 22,191 reports of sex trafficking cases within the U.S. None of those calls would have been possible without the proper education on what human trafficking looks like.
If we don’t generate discussion on this issue, it remains an unheard and invisible crime in which nearly 20,000 of our country’s citizens and 20 million citizens of the world are currently suffering from.
So, whether it’s an all-seeing flight attendant with eyes in the sky or a college student who was brave enough to report an unusual situation, everyone has the chance to make a difference, and educating ourselves on the growing epidemic of human sex trafficking is the first step to eradicating it.
Don’t think you can make a difference? Fight for one of the greatest human rights causes of our time and take the step towards educating yourself on the signs of human trafficking at sharedhope.org, download the TIP Line app, and save the National Human Trafficking 24-hour hotline number under 1-888-373-7888.
Liberation is only possible through education. Who will you save today?