Speech: First Lady Addresses AFN Convention
Standing Together Against Human Trafficking
First Lady Sandy Parnell
October 18, 2012
Thank you, Sean, honored delegates, elders, and friends. It is an honor to be with you.
I am speaking to you as a mother of two daughters. I was very disturbed to learn that during previous AFN conventions,
Alaska youth were targeted by sex traffickers.
I had always thought of sex trafficking on the international level. But sex trafficking is happening in our state and largely, it’s Alaskans trafficking other Alaskans.
So what is sex trafficking? It is modern-day slavery. This is a crime against adults and youth. Today I am focusing on youth because they are most vulnerable.
Sex trafficking occurs when a child is made to perform a sex act
in exchange for something of value -- money, food, clothing or shelter.
It also happens when a person is induced by fraud, force, or coercion to perform a commercial sex act. In the past, we’ve used the term “child prostitute,” which denotes a willingness or choice.
Any child being used for prostitution is being trafficked. They’re not being prostituted by choice, but rather by coercion. They are victims of a serious crime.
Victims are often teenagers, even as young as 13. Traffickers target them in malls, on the streets, at bus stations -- anywhere kids gather.
Children who have been sexually abused are especially vulnerable. Homeless youth are vulnerable. One in three teens on the street will be lured into trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home.
It may start out as couch surfing, but then it turns into survival sex -- trading sex for a place to stay, a meal, or to avoid a more perilous bed.
Girls from rural communities coming to Anchorage are vulnerable, especially if their support system fails, or housing falls through, and they find themselves on the street.
Traffickers entice girls by offers of new clothing, getting their hair and nails done, and a place to stay. They’re told they are special and will be taken care of. Sometimes, during this grooming stage, while things are still going well, the girls are told to recruit friends or family members.
But then, it turns ugly. They are beaten, sexually assaulted, manipulated, deliberately addicted to drugs and alcohol, and systematically abused for the trafficker’s financial gain.
What are we doing to end this evil? This past legislative session, the governor sponsored and signed human trafficking legislation, making trafficking a serious felony, subject to Alaska’s most severe penalty.
Senate Bill 210 established a task force to help Alaska gain a greater understanding of the issue, and the group will report its findings to the Legislature by January 15.
Cook Inlet Tribal Council recently convened a working group of agencies and nonprofits involved in this arena. This month they released a proposal of action; this will be a very useful resource to the Task Force.
The Anchorage Police Department, FBI, and Covenant House have been working hard on this issue for several years. And the faith community is also getting involved.
As families, the best protection we can give our children is a loving home:
A home where they are safe, not exposed to domestic violence or sexual abuse, because those most vulnerable to trafficking have suffered prior abuse.
A community where neighbors are vigilant and let each other know if they see something that isn’t right.
And we need to educate our kids about this issue, so if they are approached by someone who offers something too good to be true, they know: It’s too good to be true!
As you enjoy AFN, please keep your loved ones and yourselves safe. Know where your kids are and who they are with.
In closing, a story of one young woman in Anchorage:
She was one of the victims of a big trafficking ring. She was in a rough place, had developed a tough exterior, to protect her wounded heart.
The trafficker who made millions off of women, was arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison. But what happened to his victims?
For this woman, it was a life-saving moment when her trafficker was arrested. There were some people in our law enforcement community who knew this woman is a worthy person, and developed trust with her. This led to helping her value herself enough to get into treatment, and overcome her drug addiction.
And although it took time to heal, she has overcome her past,
and is moving forward, her life restored.
I’ve often pictured the solution to violence against our people as a jigsaw puzzle. Government, law enforcement, nonprofits are pieces. Families, communities, churches, and every Alaskan,
interlocking. Together, each piece is needed to complete the whole.
So please join me in standing against trafficking of our women and youth, and standing for freedom from human bondage and sexual violence.
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