by Bonnie Home, Almaden Hills UMW
Women from all over El Camino Real District were sure to put their umbrellas in the car before they drove to Gilroy for the United Methodist Women’s Leadership Training Event on February 6. Rain was not in the forecast, but they knew that keynote speaker Beth Edmonds (at right), an ambassador for Shared Hope International, would be addressing the campaign against human trafficking, and the symbol for that campaign is the umbrella.
Why an umbrella? The “umbrella” defense was a football play created by the New York Giants coach in 1950 to shut out the then-formidable Cleveland Browns. The umbrella reminds us that it is society’s job to shut down traffickers and embrace the survivors, and to name it a crime to control and coerce people through fraud and force. In January and February 2016, United Methodist Women all over Northern California opened their umbrellas to raise awareness of human trafficking.
Speaker Beth Edmonds dabbed her eyes as she spoke about the sixteen trafficked girls the organization had rescued in that month alone. She told how vulnerable girls are targeted by older men, and at first are treated like pampered girlfriends, but then are forced to work and raise money for their exploiters. Beth explained the signs that someone is being used. She urged us not to believe that it cannot happen in our comfortable neighborhoods. Because these young girls are not prostitutes but instead are children who are exploited, “Shared Hope” works to keep them from being sent to juvenile hall or jail. Instead, each is paired with a trafficking survivor and housed at a victims’ center.
In the afternoon after lunch Cari, another “Shared Hope” ambassador who was once trafficked herself, told her own story, letting her audience see again how this could happen to someone.
Trafficked people may …
- Not be free to go where they please.
- Be in a work place with opaque, barred or boarded up windows, barbed wire.
- Exhibit fearful, anxious behavior.
- Avoid eye contact.
- Appear malnourished.
- Not be allowed to speak for themselves. A third party may insist on being present.
- Be unable to say where they are staying. May not know which city they are in.
- Have burn marks, bruises or cuts.
- Have a recent tattoo, “branded” by their exploiter.
- Be very young people continuously accompanied by much older men.
At the Feb. 6, 2016 Leadership Event of El Camino Real District UMW, we opened our umbrellas and displayed signs in support of anti-trafficking efforts around the world. A passing motorist honked in approval. Photos by Bonnie Home.