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March 27, 2013

Event to shed light on human trafficking

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

In an effort to help local residents realize that human trafficking isn’t just something that happens in third-world countries, a local group is bringing the words of its victims to the area with a reading of “Body & Sold,” a play by Deborah Lake Fortson.

Presented by Soroptimist International clubs in Grosse Pointe and greater Macomb, the event is an effort to bring human trafficking to the forefront of conversations, said Diana Langlois, of Grosse Pointe Woods, a member of Soroptimist International of Grosse Pointe.

“Nobody wants to talk about it … being in your community or your backyard,” she said. “Toledo, Ohio, is one of the main cities for transporting girls and women because it’s a hub for I-75, I-80, I-90, so it’s very easy to move women and girls through that area.”

She explained that Detroit, with its international border crossing, also has its share of human trafficking problems.

The Soroptimists have focused on the issue for the past four years, she said, because the mission of Soroptimist International “is to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world.”

Langlois said the play, “Body & Sold,” was written from interviews conducted from 2003-2007 in Boston; Hartford, Conn.; New York; Minneapolis; and St. Paul.

Fortson interviewed teens, “both girls and boys who were enslaved, and she took their words and then she wrote their words in dialogue,” Langlois said. The reading will feature 10 students in the drama department of Wayne State University.

“For their character … it tells about how they got into the trafficking environment. Some because they’re runaways … abuse, gang, the kids, they talk about it,” she said. “It’s riveting. You see it from, like, the child’s point of view. These are kids that don’t have an adult support system and many of the adults in their lives have abused them, have sold them for money, for drugs.”

Because of the strong language and graphic content, the reading is suitable for high school students and adults — no one younger. The free event will be held from 7-9 p.m. April 11 at Lakeview High School’s Schaublin Auditorium, 23501 Little Mack Ave.

“It is important for the public, not just the teenagers. The adults, as well, to be aware of what is going on in our community,” said Karrie Blankenship, of Chesterfield Township, co-chair of the event for Soroptimist International of Grosse Pointe. “It is going on in our community and we need to be aware of what it is.”

In previous years, Langlois said, they have heard from a local woman who grew up in Birmingham and was “handpicked” by a gang for trafficking.

“We think it can’t happen in our community,” Langlois said. “This girl lived in an upper-middle class household. She was in this environment for 18 months and her parents never got it.

“The only way she got out of it was that her father … got transferred and pulled her out of the region.”

Blankenship said the community has to look out for its young people.

“When you see a young woman climbing out the back window of her home, as a neighbor and as a friend, talk to the parents. Tell them what you’re seeing,” she said. And for the affected parents, “Don’t slam the door in their face. Your child might be in trouble.

“It’s knowledge and we need to know that things aren’t always as they seem.”