After a recent conversation with a coworker, I ended up watching a documentary on human trafficking. I have heard the term and had a very basic understanding of what it is and how it happens. I learned a lot.

The initial conversation started after it was in the news there was a guy in June in the Bangor area and was approaching young girls. That conversation brought me to the documentary is called Gridshock. This documentary is about sex trafficking in Iowa.

When I think of sex crimes like this, Iowa would not be my first thought. But in hindsight, that is the point. This sort of thing can and does exist all around us…even in Maine.

(Please note, I realize the victims can be female and male, and the buyers can be male or female. I am referring to gender in the majority of cases. The victims are usually female, and buyers are generally male.)

This whole human trafficking cycle has three parts: supply (girls), demand (men), distribution/recruiting.

The film starts as you would expect. Talking with victims, how they ended up there. That was terrifying. One way or another, the girls were lured into it, or it involves someone they trust. They were not just taken out of the blue. Most of the time that is not how it happens. The scariest story was the woman whose boyfriend of a few months was the one who turned her over traffickers. There were always some connections to some levels of trust. It was not random. TERRIFYING.

Once in, the girls were basically prisoners. Yes, literally not allowed out and about but also in a mental sense. The mental chains of systematic abuse run deep. Most of the documentary focused on the women…the victims. Honestly, I can see how it happens. These women were looking for connections and someone to care. I crave those things myself…we all do…that is human.

What was getting to me was the other two sides of this. The guys who want this stuff sort of activity and the twisted women and men who recruit or get these girls into this life. Both make me sick to my stomach.

I am not sure where this sort of desire comes from, pornography keeps coming up as a trigger, but many people have seen pornography and don’t do this. There is something else there. The ‘men’ are what you might think of successful members of the community. They are male, 30’s and 40’s, middle to upper-middle class, married with kids, college-educated, and carry out this without anyone knowing or sharing. Most have no prior records of any trouble with the law, so they are not listed as ‘sex offenders,’ and even if they are caught, they face little to no punishments. But if there were not so readily available, would they still see it out? Would it mean they would abuse their family to feed this need? I don’t know.

That brings me to the people who are the middlemen and women. They are traders of human life for profit. No matter how you cut this for me, they are beyond evil. The idea of a stranger taking a young woman is twisted enough. Still, people spending their energy to make friends with a girl or young woman to then use that trust to imprison her as a product or commodity that is disposable in one way or another. Family members who use their connections in that family to find this currency…twisted.

The documentary left me with more questions. I have reached out to law enforcement and those who work with sexual assault victims to find out more. I will have more on that later. But for now, know it is real.

You can watch the documentary yourself. Here is the link to Gridshock. It does cost a few dollars, but it will open your eyes, and it cannot be unseen.

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