Wheels Of Grace Magazine

Volume 12, Issue 2

Issue link: https://cp.revolio.com/i/1363081

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Page 7 of 31

8 | WheelsOfGrace.com | #54 Sometimes you see something that just gives you nightmares. It was a Saturday that held one of those kind of moments in its grasp and it keeps bouncing around in my cranium like a pinball. We were set up at a community Block party in Clearwater, Florida that was filled with non-profit groups and vendors. Everything was provided free to all who attended and as the blistering heat and sweltering humidity turned into a more tolerable evening hundreds of people started gathering and walking from vendor to vendor. There was a band, speakers were lining the street so everyone could hear, plenty of cold water and Gatorade were in iced- down buckets and the people came from all walks of life. Kids, adults, homeless, educated, wealthy, poor, uneducated and the skin colors formed a beautiful tapestry of diversity. As the evening turned into night more adults started venturing into the venue and then somewhere around 9pm there seemed to be a different wind that blew in. Guys started drifting in that were under the influence, walking cocky and attempting to gain some attention. The kids tended to drift out of sight and whether it was a combination of the hot day, the cooler night or the free food -- people walked in, that were clearly out of place. The "family" block party was turning and people were getting bolder. Two guys came strutting in shirtless... Several young couples looked like they were getting ready to head out to the clubs to dance the night away and they arrived in their scantily dressed attire and then -- it was as if time slowed. This young guy dressed in khaki's and a blue dress shirt, probably in his mid 20's started to parade down the street. He seemed to look like a lot of people that were attending the block party but there was one glaring exception. "Her!" She was dressed in tight fitting shorts that were too small to cover some areas, her hair was swept up and noticeable and you could see that she had been "prepared to strut her stuff for a potential buyer." She looked to be in her late teens or possibly early 20's and as she was forced to walk beside the guy; he kept his hand on her bottom and made it clear to everyone that she was "his." They walked slowly up the entire length of the street. They didn't slow, they didn't look around that much and they stayed tightly together. Then they took a gentle, wide turn and came right down our side of the street. As they started walking our way you could see it register in their eyes that we were a bit different. We had on our biker vests, tat's showing and we were bunched up around our booth handing out information about human sex trafficking. They neared our booth and kept their eyes straight ahead and then they looked a bit towards the other side of the street as we asked them if they wanted any information about human sex trafficking. They refused to acknowledge us and to be honest with you, it was all we could do NOT to confront the young dude right there on the spot. However, we let them pass and didn't take our eyes off of them. We took some pictures so we could follow up and then Rainey and I (Doc) started to follow them. They kept up their pace and started to veer away from the party. They walked behind the band area and we kept them in our view. We followed them as they crossed the street but then they suddenly got into his car and they were off. We watched them drive away and left to go deliver our pictures. As we walked back to our booth it was surreal. Everyone was having a great time, a good time. It was as if the two that had walked up and down the block were invisible. We went up to a few people and asked if they had noticed them - by describing them - but not one person noticed anything out of the ordinary. That is when it became apparent to us once again how invisible human sex trafficking really is. It is happening all around us but no one sees it because we have conditioned ourselves to NOT look for it. We see what could be something going on and we rationalize or justify that it is not something bad. We see a scantily dressed person and either leer or look away thinking that they are doing this "on purpose." For some reason we have conditioned ourselves to NOT see, and NOT notice... As a result, we never see the pain in the eyes, the fear in their walk or the dread of yet another moment with another forced act. Our culture has started to embrace the fact that human trafficking happens and there are some great organizations doing an amazing amount of work. Then there are others who are simply just taking money away from those who really need it. One thing is certain however, human sex trafficking is growing. It is NOT getting better and we continue to fall farther and farther behind. Yet there is hope. There is hope because we focus in on helping one, and then moving to help another. We feel as though as long as we all continue to work from one to one, that at some point we will hit a tipping point and then the momentum of eradicating human sex trafficking He dragged her down the street He dragged her down the street 8 | WheelsOfGrace.com | #54

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