Leaving To Make A Stand

April 16, 2015

I often talk about how each of us can take a stand against human trafficking in our daily lives. Recently, as my husband and I were on a much needed vacation, we had an opportunity which could happen to any of us.

We decided to partake in some laughter as good medicine from the cruise’s comedian show. After being seated in the first row, it wasn’t long before we enjoyed side-splitting laughter. Then came this “joke.” “The only Spanish I know is Donde esta Prostituta?”┬áMy husband and I looked at each other in wide-eyed disbelief. The comedian’s next line was “how much for a quickie?”

I looked at my husband and said “I’m done here.” He agreed and we stood up from the front row and quietly walked out. At the auditorium door we passed a cruise staffer who said, “Leaving early? Something wrong?” I repeated the comedian’s joke and explained I work in anti-trafficking and some of the ramifications of his rendition. She tried to explain away my concerns, “I’m from London and comedians always poke fun at us. You just have to let it roll off your back.”

I explained “This isn’t about a country. It was justifying the most horrific crime on the planet. If you have ever sat with a survivor and heard their pain…” She wasn’t interested. “Comedians are going to offend everybody.”

We went to the front desk. I asked to talk to the Cruise Director and shared what the comedian had said. They were appropriately appalled. They explained that the Cruise Director was unavailable but suggested I complete a comment card for her.

That evening we shared the incident with those at our assigned dinner table. Most agreed with our concerns but doubted anything would be done, because after all, “two consenting adults.” So my husband and I began to explain the average age of entry into sex trafficking was 11-14, that a majority of what society calls “prostitutes” are actually victims of sex trafficking, that the trafficker takes all the money, and victims are beaten abused and even killed.

Here in lies the problem. Our soceity has accepted laughing about purchasing another human being as a joke. Needless to say, a few other people heard my spiel over the next couple days. We all wondered how the cruise line would handle this?

Two days later the Cruise Director contacted me telling me she completely agreed with my concerns, conveyed apologies from the comedian as well as the cruise line. She said those jokes would no longer be allowed on her ship and she would petition the parent company to develop a similar policy.

I gave the Cruise Director a copy of my book, In Our Backyard for the library where she assured me it would stay. She also said she would contact the parent company about placing In Our Backyard in each of their ship’s libraries.

As paying customers, we took a stand that we would not tolerate any contributions to our culture’s contribution to sex trafficking, even in the form of a so-called “joke.”

Each of you is making a stand in the work you do. As we all link arms against modern slavery in our culture, we will see these horrific crimes diminish.

Nita Belles