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The Modern Slave

Tim Kowis and Stephen Houser

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In Joplin, three massage parlors were raided with warrants for sex trafficking.  These parlors have been under investigation for several months prior to the raids on February eighth.  In the parlors, a total of seven adult victims of sex trafficking were rescued. This is not an uncommon event to take place in Joplin, Missouri. Many of these modern slaves are females aged 12-14 kidnapped from their families. Of the 20,000 people trafficked each year, 73% of these known cases are sourced by the website backpage.com. On this website, you can buy anything from toys and cars to many illegal services. There are an estimated 15.5 billion to 32 billion dollars generated through the sale and transport of other human beings. The revenue generated varies as the sales go up and down, during the year of 2017 human trafficking rose 35%, creating 7,000 additional victims.

    The CEO of backpage.com has been arrested on charges of selling women for sex as well as underage sex trafficking. On the website, there are classified ads to buy and sell sex. The ads can be placed on the website for a group of people in the “adult entertainment” section. The website was started by Village Voice Media and is owned now by a Dutch company. The previous owners Lacey and James Larkin are under conspiracy to sell sexual deeds as well. This leads Kamala Harris, California’s Attorney General, to believe the website was purposefully designed for human trafficking and other illegal enterprises.  The website still stands though, and such sales continue.

    Despite the illegality of the site, it remains open and operable and still has ads of prostitution and sex trafficking including the seven in captivity at the massage parlors in Joplin, MO.  As well, the Facebook page, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram all remain operable and accessible online. Even on these pages of social media, ads remain.

    The site is one of many that acts as a middleman, one which just says where to find a human trafficking ring the website is the human trafficking ring disguised as an innocent buy and sell website like eBay or StockX. The site has been operational since 2004 and has amassed a value of $80 million. The intention of the site seemed to give shoppers what they want, whatever it is. Unfortunately, backpage.com has gone above the law to allow its users to purchase illegal things for the sole benefit and growth of itself.

    Andrew Blair, a sergeant at Joplin Police Department has given some advice on the issue.  “Be honest.” he says, “If you have suspicions on something tell someone, be friendly, and always stay safe.”  He also agrees the prominence of I-44 is a large factor of human trafficking in Joplin as well as its central location in America.  To counter backpage, JPD is in a constant state of change and has put in place precautions to trick or deter criminals. He also says everyone can help in many ways. Even by simply being kind, you can help.  

    The causes of sex trafficking, according to the Rapha House website, are of greed, poverty, and ignorance of the subject.  Predators or slavers would make deals that seem irresistible to those in poverty confirming their children’s prosperity promising to take their children to America, promising them a better life.  They even offer to pay for the parents to allow them a “better future.” Little do they know, though, that they are confirming their children’s future to not be a bright one. The average age is 12-14, which allows full maturity of the body of these women.  These slavers will also collect ransom money until the family can no longer afford it and from misinformation think they owe these organizations. Then, these organizations will come for the children as the only way to pay their debt.

Sex trafficking is much closer to home than you think and is a worldwide issue. Jenna Harrison from Rapha House in Joplin stated, “It exists across the world and right here. We want to encourage high school students to know the signs of human trafficking as well as having the eyes for identifying it and knowing of it in the first place helps greatly.” Harrison agreed that I-44 has a small influence on activity in Joplin; however, they deal mostly with international issues despite their local location.

      The Joplin PD has put in place precautions to counter this and will continue to adapt to the digital age.  Yet, to help, the simplest thing to do is be honest and kind. To help further, the Rapha House accepts donations and has a shop which the profits go to help victims and has volunteering opportunities available.  The Joplin Rapha House’s phone number is 417-621-0373 and has a website for further information.

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1 Comment

One Response to “The Modern Slave”

  1. Terri Kowis on April 13th, 2018 7:08 pm

    Impressive reporting. Thank you for bringing to light such a important aspect of our culture today. Education of this subject is so important. Thank you Mrs. Wilson for your support of these students and their writings.

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