Barbara Jean Wilson was 8 years old when she was first trafficked. Her mother was the pimp.
“Instead of me going out, she would bring the men home,” Wilson said during a trafficking summit at the Justice Department on Jan. 14.
“I was fed drugs. I was fed alcohol. The one time that I had the courage to say ‘No,’ one of them put a gun to my head and said, ‘No one tells me no.’”
Wilson said she would plead with her mother for it to stop, but was told that’s how the rent was getting paid.
“And so I had nowhere to seek help and I just dealt with it. That’s how I lived,” she said.
Wilson was eventually thrown out of her home, and to survive, she got deeper into drugs and did the only thing she knew—sell her body.
By 15, she had a daughter to support. At around 17, Wilson overdosed on drugs, and ironically, that’s what she said saved her.
“The Holy Spirit came to me and said, ‘Enough is enough,” she said. “And I made a promise to God that if he got me through it, I would spend the rest of my life sharing my story to help other victims … [and] bring understanding and awareness to those who don’t know what we go through.”
She’s been doing so ever since, but the pain is still evident. Despite what her mother put her through, she said she has forgiven her.
“She asked for forgiveness. I forgave her. I forgave my abusers. … In order for me to go forth, I had to forgive,” she said. “But it damaged me in a lot of ways, damaged me in so many ways.”
Homelessness and Trafficking
Bill Bedrossian, CEO of Covenant House in California, said his organization is the largest provider for homeless youth in the United States.
“And by default, we’ve become the largest provider of housing for victims of human trafficking,” he said. “For a lot of these young people, they literally have begun being trafficked at 8, 9 years old by their family members, by the gangs, by the street life that they’ve been exposed to.”
A recent study conducted by Covenant House found that 20 percent of young people who experience homelessness are sex trafficked, Bedrossian said.
He said he has noticed a change over the past five to 10 years in both the sophistication of the traffickers and the insidiousness of the crime.
Kay Duffield, executive director of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative, said that in about 84 percent of sex trafficking cases, the trafficker uses the internet to sell their victims.
“One sex buyer said that buying sex was as easy as going online and ordering a pizza,” she said.
‘Traffickers Are Predators’
Barbara Amaya grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, in a home she said looked beautiful on the outside, but wasn’t on the inside.
Amaya said she was abused and ended up going through “all the systems,” including child welfare, foster care, and juvenile justice. By 12, she was a habitual runaway.
“I wasn’t just running away, I was running to find something,” she said. “And traffickers are predators. They prey upon the vulnerable.”
One day she was approached by a young woman at Dupont Circle in Washington, who suggested she come home with her to get food.
“She took me back to her place. And there was her boyfriend, who was actually her trafficker,” Amaya said. “They started training me for purposes of prostitution. I was 12 years old.”
Soon after, she was sold to a man who took her to New York and trafficked her out with other minors he had bought from all over the country.
“He had many other young people in different hotels around New York. He had two apartments in Manhattan on either side—East Side, West Side, and he would move everybody all around all the time to keep everyone off balance and isolated in that world,” she said.
Her trafficker became violent if she didn’t bring in enough money.
“He would beat me with a wire coat hanger … throw me down the stairs, throw me out of a car,” Amaya said.
“The violence occurred in his hands and also at the buyer’s hands. I’ve been shot, I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been everything that you could probably think of—or not think of. When someone thinks they’re buying you, they think they can do whatever they want to do to you.”
At around 15 or 16, Amaya was hooked on heroin and in Rikers Island prison. She broke out of the brainwashing fog long enough to tell the authorities her real name and age and asked them to call her parents. They came back and said her parents were on their way.
“I had all this flood of emotions because I’d been gone for so many years and I don’t know what they told my parents. I had shame, horrible shame—this is all my fault,” she recalled.
“I opened the door to the room. And I walked into the room, and it was my trafficker standing there.”
Amaya said she still doesn’t know how her trafficker knew to be there. But she was desperate for a heroin fix and left with him, missing her parents by 10 minutes. It put her back into the life for another seven years.
“[The drugs] numbed my brain and my body to the existence that I was suffering. So by the time I was 23, 24, I’m five foot nine, 99 pounds, probably going to die. I knew that,” she said. “I knew I had to do something and I pulled myself into a drug clinic over on the Lower East Side.”
She recalled vividly how the receptionist treated her “like a human being.”
“She cared. I felt like I mattered. I don’t remember feeling like that, maybe ever,” Amaya said. “And because of her, taking time out of her day to treat me like a human being, she propelled me out of New York City.”
Wilson said victims of sex trafficking should know they can get out and go on to live a productive life.
“Don’t be ashamed of what you were put through, because you’re not to blame,” she said. “That is not the life that anyone should have to live. And especially a child.
“When you see those young girls and those young boys out there on the street, they’re not out there because they want to be. They’re out there because they have no place to go. They don’t trust anyone.”
Bedrossian said a common thread in homeless and trafficked youth is that they crave love and belonging.
“We all long for significance in our lives,” he said. “The No. 1 deterrent from a young person to become trafficked is having a meaningful relationship, positive relationship with an adult in their life.”
Basically Ayers believes the biggest problem in American is education. So the answer to that problem was to round up 100 million people and ship them by train to the Southwest and re-educate them in Marxist ideology.
Out of that 100 million they were ready to kill 25% off the top they estimated could not be re-educated. This is the mentality of Stalin killing hundreds of millions of peasants because it would take too much time and effort to re-educate them to Marxist thought. If given the chance these people would turn the US into the Cambodian killing fields.
Identity theft isn’t just someone stealing your credit card. Criminals are coming up with plenty of innovative ways to rip us off. New account fraud, a tactic in which someone opens an account in your name, is on the rise. So are cases of hackers using clever social engineering tactics to fool victims into giving up sensitive information.
Think it can’t happen to you?
One recent example is a new type of identity fraud that tricks victims into thinking they’ve received a two-factor authentication text from their bank. This is especially shocking as it looks so real.
More than 14 million Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2018, according to a 2019 study by Javelin Strategy & Research. Fraud is still rampant and can cause serious financial damage — not to mention all the time and effort it can take to undo it.
That’s why knowing the tactics thieves to steal your identity is essential. Avoid these pitfalls and stay protected.
1. Think before you share
We live in a generation of oversharing. People have been oversharing the details of their personal lives on reality TV shows for years.
These days, it seems everyone shares everything on social media platforms like Facebook. It’s often innocent oversharing, like your friend who “checks in” to every restaurant so you always know where she is and what she’s eating. Tap or click to secure your Facebook account once and for all.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to overshare with hackers, too. How often do you mindlessly click through buttons that say “Allow Access?” If you’re playing an online game or entering a contest, it’s understandable because you want a chance to win.
RELATED: Not sure who to turn to for tech help? I’ve got your back. 12 questions about social media you’re too embarrassed to ask.
But stop and think about what you’re doing before you give away your information. Take a second to read terms and conditions before you agree online, and be smart about what you post on the web.
You should never post your address, phone number or other personal information on social media sites. Platforms like Facebook are too careless with our privacy as it is, and you don’t want your sensitive information in the wrong hands.
2. Blast from the past
Remember MySpace accounts? From about 2005 to 2008 it was the most popular social media site in the world. Not so much anymore. Most MySpace users have moved on. Unfortunately, many forgot to delete their accounts.
Leaving old accounts active can be a security nightmare. Think about all the personal information you have just sitting there, waiting to be scavenged by cybercriminals. Let’s face it, Tom from MySpace probably isn’t keeping up with security protocols.
It’s critical to be proactive and delete all of your old accounts you no longer use.
Go through your browser, your email and wrack your brain for all the accounts and services you’ve signed up for. If you find some you’re not using, don’t just let them linger. Take the time to shut down your old accounts the right way.
This can be a lot of work, but there’s a site that can help make the process easy. It’s called AccountKiller and will help you wipe the slate clean. Tap or click here to learn more about AccountKiller and easily get rid of those old accounts.
3. Some things are supposed to stay between you and your doctor
According to a survey by security company Carbon Black, a frightening 84% of health care organizations say they have seen an increase in cyberattacks over the past year. Cybercriminals have been targeting hospitals and clinics due to the sheer amount of data these places store.
It’s not all just patient information, either. There’s also data on doctors and insurance companies. Stolen information is sold on the Dark Web and ranges mostly from forgeries to health insurance credentials.
If someone steals your identity, you could be subject to medical identity theft. This act means you might be denied coverage because someone has already used your medical insurance benefits.
How can you protect yourself? Only share your insurance card when it’s absolutely necessary, and report a missing card to your insurance company right away. Avoid posting about health issues online; the less info potential scammers know about you, the better. Check any statements or bills you receive thoroughly, and contact your insurance company or doctor if you see a charge or service you don’t recognize.
PRIVACY PRO TIP: Creepy data broker sites collect a shocking amount of information — but you can remove your data and opt out. Tap or click here to take this important privacy step.
4. Don’t be fooled
When criminals first started sending phishing emails, they were pretty easy to spot. Tons of grammatical and spelling errors tipped us off to the fact that no, our banks couldn’t possibly have sent that message.
However, today’s crooks have learned that lesson and are now sending professional looking messages. They spoof logos that look so real they can be difficult for even experts to spot. The most important rule to outsmarting phishing scams is to avoid clicking malicious links. That means you shouldn’t click on web links or open PDF attachments found in unsolicited email messages — ever.
If you need to conduct business with a company, it’s always best to type its web address directly into your browser. Never trust a link inside a message, and be wary of downloading anything you didn’t specifically ask for.
5. Before you hit ‘buy’
Shopping online is convenient and takes out all the hassles associated with heading to the mall. But have you ever heard of e-skimming? It’s when your credit card information is skimmed by a criminal while you’re buying stuff online. You don’t even know it’s happening until it’s too late.
This epidemic is getting worse as hackers have figured out how to skim credit cards from ordinary online retailers without being detected. They do this by using tricky bits of code while they lie in wait and capture your data as you’re typing it in.
Does that mean you need to stop shopping online all together? No, but you should take steps to shop smarter. For starters, check the connection to the site you’re on. Look for a lock or a URL that begins with HTTPS instead of just HTTP. If it’s not secure, find what you’re shopping for elsewhere.
Be wary of any deals that seem too good to be true. Coupons for crazy discounts or free products could be a trap to get your payment info.
You should also consider ditching your credit card all together when you buy online. Tap or click for 3 safer ways to pay online.
6. Not worth the risk
One of the biggest mistakes people make is connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Sure, everyone wants to save on data, but joining a public Wi-Fi network at the coffee shop or airport is a terrible idea.
Crooks are always trolling these public networks, watching and waiting for new victims to rip off. If you must use a public network, always use a VPN when you connect. The free ones are slow. You’re better off paying a small monthly fee for a robust VPN.
7. Stay up to date
Shelling out over a grand for the latest and greatest smartphone isn’t very economical. But if you are using a super old device that can’t support updates, you could be putting your personal data at risk.
That’s because many operating system updates come with critical security patches that keep crooks from stealing your information. Without these patches, you’re a serious contender for identity theft, which could wind up costing you more than what you’d pay for a new phone.
Keep all your devices updated to the latest software you can, and seriously consider a new smartphone if yours is several versions behind.
Not updating your OS is just one silly thing you may be doing that puts you at risk online. Tap or click for 7 security basics you really need to stop ignoring.
8. Low-tech tricks
Though criminals have sophisticated hacking tools at their disposal, there are old-fashioned spying tricks that still work to this day.
We’re talking about the common thief rummaging through your trash, hoping to find personal information you may have written down and thrown away. Take the time to shred any sensitive documents before carelessly throwing them in the trash. This includes bank statements, financial documents, medical bills and anything else with identifying information.
Also, be careful of what you say out loud. Eavesdroppers might be listening in if you’re in public making a payment over the phone and reading your credit card information out loud.
When in doubt, assume someone is watching or listening and guard your info accordingly.
9. Threats at home, too
It’s sad I have to mention this, but it’s not just hackers who can steal your identity. It could be a family member or friend.
That’s why it’s essential to keep passwords and important documents in a safe place. Don’t just leave things with information like Social Security numbers and banking information sitting around the house.
Keep sensitive documents locked in a drawer, cabinet or safe deposit box. Stop writing down passwords and login info, and store or shred financial statements as soon they arrive in the mail.
There was a time when our house phones would ring off the hook with annoying, unknown and unwanted calls. The immediate reaction would be to use *69 to trace where the call originated from.
Today, these annoying messages are coming in the form of emails. Each of these messages leads down the same road, which ends with a phishing scam or some sketchy request to reveal your personal data.
If you really want to check the credibility or authenticity of an email, you’ll need to dig deeper and establish where the email originated from — a virtual *69 if you will.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
The latest call to action from some criminal-justice activists: “Abolish the police.”
From the streets of Chicago to the city council of Seattle, and in the pages of academic journals ranging from the Cardozo Law Review to the Harvard Law Review and of mainstream publications from the Boston Review to Rolling Stone, advocates and activists are building a case not just to reform policing — viewed as an oppressive, violent and racist institution — but to do away with it altogether. When I first heard this slogan, I assumed that it was a figure of speech, used to legitimize more expansive criminal-justice reform. But after reading the academic and activist literature, I realized that “abolish the police” is a concrete policy goal. The abolitionists want to dismantle municipal police departments and see “police officers disappearing from the streets.”
One might dismiss such proclamations as part of a fringe movement, but advocates of these radical views are gaining political momentum in numerous cities. In Seattle, socialist city council candidate Shaun Scott, who ran on a “police abolition” platform, came within 1,386 votes of winning elected office. During his campaign, he argued that the city must “[disinvest] from the police state” and “build towards a world where nobody is criminalized for being poor.” At a debate hosted by the Seattle Police Officers Guild, Scott blasted “so-called officers” for their “deep and entrenched institutional ties to racism” that produced an “apparatus of overaggressive and racist policing that has emerged to steer many black and brown bodies back into, in essence, a form of slavery.” Another Seattle police abolitionist, Kirsten Harris-Talley, served briefly as an appointed city councilwoman. Both Scott and Harris-Talley enjoy broad support from the city’s progressive establishment.
What would abolishing police mean as a practical policy matter? Nothing very practical. In The Nation, Mychal Denzel Smith argues that police should be replaced by “full social, economic, and political equality.” Harris-Talley, meantime, has traced policing’s origins back to slavery. “How do you reform an institution that from its inception was made to control, maim, condemn and kill people?” she asks. “Reform it back to what?” If cities can eliminate poverty through affordable housing and “investing in community,” she believes, the police will become unnecessary. Others argue that cities must simply “help people resolve conflicts through peace circles and restorative justice programs.”
Police abolitionists believe that they stand at the vanguard of a new idea, but this strain of thought dates to the 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who believed that stripping away the corruptions of civilization would liberate the goodness of man. What police abolitionists fail to acknowledge is the problem of evil. No matter how many “restorative” programs it administers, even a benevolent centralized state cannot extinguish the risks of illness, violence and disorder. Contrary to the utopian vision of Rousseau and his intellectual descendants, chaos is not freedom; order is not slavery. In the modern world, civilization cannot be rolled back without dire consequences.
If anything like police abolition ever occurred, it’s easy to predict what would happen next. In the subsequent vacuum of physical power, wealthy neighborhoods would deploy private police forces, and poor neighborhoods would organize around criminal gangs — deepening structural inequalities and harming the very people that the police abolitionists say they want to help. Even Scott, when pressed by a local journalist about how he would respond to a shooting in his district, conceded that “we live in a world where it’s not possible to turn anywhere for help on big questions like this but to the police force.”
Reform the police? Sure. Abolish them? Never.
Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal, documentary filmmaker, and research fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He’s directed four films for PBS, including his new film, “America Lost,” which tells the story of three “forgotten American cities.” This piece originally appeared in City Journal.