Human trafficking, the modern version of slavery, is a worldwide problem and is likely as close as the teenage girl who fled her suburban Morris County home and was lured into a life of prostitution or the Central American day laborer who fears he’ll be deported if he demands fair wages at his area job.
“It’s such a hidden crime,” said Susan Neigher, a member of the N.J. Coalition Against Human Trafficking. “It involves coercion and forced labor. We see it in sweat shops, in hair salons, domestic workers, landscaping, prostitution. It could just as easily be Chester or Mendham.”
Neigher joined hundreds of others at a rally commemorating national and state Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11 at the Statehouse in Trenton. One mother cried as she told about how her daughter had been enslaved by a pimp for two years after he lured her to dinner and a phony party from her college campus before virtually imprisoning her and forcing her to prostitute herself for him.
Elie Honig, the deputy director of the N.J. Division of Criminal Justice, described a case concerning the abduction and drugging of boys as young as 11, for forced prostitution. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, prime sponsor of the proposed Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act, said the U.S. is the most common destination of trafficking victims worldwide and that in New Jersey, the average age of a trafficking victim is 12, and some are as young as 9.
Huttle said her proposed bill would “make our state a leader in the fight against human trafficking and a role model for other states.” Senator Tom Kean Jr. R-Union, a cosponsor of a companion bill in the Senate, said the bills would make the state “a beacon to the world.”
Learn more at Phil Garber’s Observer-Tribune article: Chester Township woman helps battle modern-day slavery.