A Daughter of Charity is advocating for stronger trafficking laws in Arkansa.

Sister Mary Jo Swift, DC, traveled Arkansas in October to present to churches, youth groups and organizations about human trafficking and how to help its victims reports the Arkansas Catholic.

“It’s a huge problem here in the United States as well as in other countries. I think sometimes people don’t know that it exists,” she said. “The presentation that I do is an introductory thing to get them aware of what the problem is.”

Human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery, even happens in Arkansas, she said. Men, women and children are routinely forced to work in factories, sweatshops, agricultural settings, restaurants, hotels, truck stops, domestic settings and other places. Often, they come to another country with the promise of a job and a better future for their families.

Trafficking victims can also be forced into sexual slavery. Sister Mary Jo said that two studies show that up to 300,000 children, mainly middle-school-age girls, are at risk of sex slavery in the United States.

Sister Mary Jo became involved in human trafficking when she worked in health care in San Antonio where she attended a workshop on human trafficking.

“I didn’t know hardly anything about it before then,” she said. “I can remember thinking if I was around when the Underground Railroad was functioning, would I work with it? And I though ‘Gosh, I hope I would,’ and so I said to myself ‘Then you better get busy and get involved in this.'”

She learned about the issue and began giving presentations to educate people about human trafficking in the San Antonio area. Her order then asked her to travel around her province with the Daughters of Charity. She is currently based in Evansville, Ind.

“Unless people are informed, unless people here know about it, they are not going to look for the signs and they’re not going to be freed. Law enforcement can’t always find it,” she said. “Every example that I use in the PowerPoint and what is on the DVD, people just noticed signs and got suspicious and called the authorities. Ordinary people are the ones who are going to help these slaves.”

“People think it doesn’t happen in the United States, and it does. Some people here think it doesn’t happen in Arkansas,” she said. “Arkansas needs stronger laws. Traffickers are going to go where they have a better chance not to be picked up. People need to know that it exists and if you see something suspicious you should call.”

To learn more:

 National Human Trafficking Resource Center toll-free hotline: (888) 3737-888,

 “The Slave Next Door” by Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter and “Somebody’s Daughter” by Julian Sher

 Sister Mary Jo Swift: mjswiftdc@yahoo.com

 U.S. bishops: www.usccb.org/about/human-trafficking

 U.S. State Department: www.state.gov/g/tip

Questions:

  • Do you think your local community is free of this modern form of slaver?
  • Is trafficking something you feel uncomfortable talking about?
  • Were you aware of any of the resources mentioned above?

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