By Jackie O’Malley
While most American fathers teach their nine-year-old daughters how to ride a bike, Minh Dang’s father was teaching her how to have sex.
After a year of “training,” Dang’s father sold her into the sex trafficking industry, making Dang the core financial provider for her family.
The College’s chapter of New Jersey Christian Foundation (NJCF) sponsored an intimate discussion about Dang’s story and the issue of sex trafficking in Brower Student Center 202E on Monday.
The discussion was lead by two alumnae, Maria De La Cruz and Brittany Aydelotte, who now work full time with the Bonner Foundation.
“Minh thought it was her responsibility to grow up, get good grades, become a doctor and provide for her parents,” Aydelotte said. “Her parents couldn’t wait that long, so Minh’s father started selling her at the age of 10.”
According to De La Cruz, Dang grew up getting straight As, and she was a star soccer player. No one ever suspected her dark secret that had consumed her life for fourteen years.
Unfortunately, Dang’s story is far too common in the U.S. De La Cruz revealed that right here in New Jersey, there are “massage parlors, where young girls are being sold.”
“Also, right in Plainfield, N.J., there was a sex-trafficking case,” Aydelotte said. About four young girls between the ages of 14 and 17 were found hidden in a sex-trafficking home.
“This was only 20 minutes away from here,” Aydelotte added.
According to Aydelotte, “The most recent number of victims in sex trafficking ranges from 14 to 17 thousand in just the United States. The number abroad skyrockets.”
Aydelotte said victims of sex trafficking are not prostitutes; they are not paid. They are young men and women under the age of 18 that are forced and coerced into sexual acts.
“I think it is really disturbing,” said Tiffany Hsieh, junior graphic design major. “In those places, I wouldn’t expect that to happen.”
“Something needs to be done about it,” said Eshica Showell, senior women’s and gender studies major.
De La Cruz explained how focusing on the problem itself can lead to change.
“Minh wants us to know that awareness is the beginning of change,” De La Cruz said.
Aydelotte discussed signs of abuse which can help families and friends understand if someone is being trafficked.
“If we are aware of the signs, we can help these victims,” she said.
Aydelotte said to be aware if a loved one demonstrates poor mental and physical health, like anxiety, nervousness, and malnourishment. Lack of control over money and identification is another common sign.
“Also, watch out for inconsistency in stories,” she said.
De La Cruz said, “Just keep a look out and be there for anyone to speak to.”
If you would like to get involved in the cause, Ayedolette suggests joining the Office of Anti-Violence Initiatives (OAVI) Peer Educators program at the College, which is responsible for the Green Dot Project. The project raises awareness about sexual violence.