A Reflection on Slavery

Beatrice Fernando is in a Sri Lankan airport hugging her 3-year-old son goodbye.
She is 23, divorced and is leaving him, for him.

An agency offered housemaid employment opportunities in Lebanon, and as a young single mother, she is desperate to find a way to support herself and her growing son.
She does not know that the flight from her home in Sri Lanka to the agency’s office in Lebanon will lead her into hell.

Her passport is taken away.

Her workdays last 20 hours.

Her dinner is found in trash cans.

The apartment in which she works quickly becomes a prison; she is locked inside, unable to leave.

Her cheeks are slapped. Her head is thrown against a wall. A broom and feet crash into her back.
She endures the hunger, the fatigue, the abuse day

after day

after day

after day,

until

Hunger, Fatigue, Abuse lead her to the fourth-floor apartment balcony.

She stands on the railing, thinking of the prison she cannot escape, thinking of her son she cannot see, thinking of the freedom she cannot grasp, and jumps.

 


“Property of Salem” is tattooed on Jennifer Kempton’s groin. This is one of several tattoos found on her body, all of which are disgusting marks designed by dope gang leaders and pimps.

Her childhood was abusive.

Her relationships were destructive.

The abuse and destruction, along with her work in downtown Columbus, Ohio, led her into drug addiction and street prostitution:

Sex trafficking.

Pimp after pimp have marked her as HIS property.

Groin, breast, neck, back.

Belonging to everyone but herself, she looped a noose around her neck.

 


These two stories tell the frightening tale of modern-day slavery.

Before my partnership with the Free to Run Foundation, I would instantly think “Underground Railroad”, “Dutch West India Company” and “13th Amendment” upon hearing the word slavery; my slavery timeline ended 149 years ago with its abolition in the United States.

I wouldn’t have thought about Jennifer’s spiral into sex trafficking, nor would I have considered Beatrice’s blind step into domestic servitude. But with a few noteworthy links, and Google at my fingertips, I quickly discovered how expansive and complex and alive slavery is. Slavery is just as much a local issue as it is an international one. And slavery takes on many identities, including forced labor, child labor, domestic servitude, sex trafficking and bonded labor.

Beatrice jumped from the apartment’s fourth-floor balcony because she wanted to escape domestic servitude. She did escape, but not by taking her life. She now lives in Massachusetts and provides financial assistance for the education of trafficked women’s children through the Nivasa Foundation.

The noose around Jennifer’s neck broke; she also escaped.

The pimps, the dope gangs, the drugs.

But not the haunting tattoos, until an artist in Lancaster, Ohio transformed her scars into portraits of color and flowers and hope. This change from scar to art inspired Jennifer to found Survivor’s Ink, which is a non-profit that offers full scholarships to survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation to have their branding tattoo’s covered or removed.

Jennifer’s and Beatrice’s stories are two of 28 million. Through awareness and dialogue, we can help write more beautiful endings like these women’s. And through persistence and conscious effort, we can halt every bad beginning from ever being written. Slavery did not end in 1865; it’s time that it finds a place in museums, next to historical artifacts like dinosaurs and carrier pigeons and dial-up internet modems.

What are some of the steps we can take toward eliminating modern slavery? I will share one way I am making a difference in next month’s post.
Sources: endslaverynow.org         http://gracehaven.me

 

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