2021 Blog

Exploitation beyond sex trafficking

After coming off of an incredibly motivating event in Santa Cruz - stay tuned for more coming on that this week - I had a lot of time to think more about trafficking, why we’re doing the ride, and who we’re doing it for. Our incredible 5 star “host parents,” Brent and Sheila who live in Santa Cruz, fed us a delicious spread for breakfast which included strawberries and raspberries (a hot commodity these days). They told us that California, specifically Santa Cruz, produces a high percentage of the world’s berries. We found this to be a fun and interesting fact and went on to get ready to go meet with the district attorney to talk about how Santa Cruz is working to fight sex trafficking.

We left Brent and Sheila’s house a little after noon and had about 40 miles to get to our next stop in Monterrey. Laney, Cara, and I rode together; it was a bit overcast and there was a strong headwind as we made our way to the next campsite. On this unexpectedly difficult day, I was glad that I had all of our conversations about sex trafficking and why we’re doing the ride so fresh in my mind to remind me of why this ride is so meaningful and impactful.

We stopped on the side of the road at a fresh fruit stand and grabbed some strawberries to eat as a mid-ride snack. We talked about how fresh the berries were, took a moment to rest, and went on with our ride. A couple miles later, we rode through a long stretch of fields with so many workers bent over in the fields picking berries, not looking up. We all silently realized on our own that labor trafficking wasn’t unlikely to be happening. I can’t say for certainty that the fields we passed were filled with trafficked workers, but labor trafficking is a common occurrence in agricultural communities.

While we fight specifically for survivors of sex trafficking, there’s a clear intersection of advocacy between labor trafficking, too. We talk a lot about choice and how freedom can’t happen unless all basic needs are taken care of. Cara, Laney, and I all talked about how horrible it feels to be biking through communities where these workers are likely not having all of their basic needs met and therefore coerced into forced labor.

This feeling has happened a couple of times for me on the ride - where I feel like I’m so distanced from trafficking that I have no place speaking on the issue. How could I just ride by and watch as these people worked under horrible conditions when I’m supposed to be fighting for liberation and freedom for all? I know that I’m not a perfect advocate and that I’m truly doing the best I can, which is all that anyone is ever doing. While biking, I’ve been listening to “Half the Sky,” a book on trafficking that I recommend to anyone wanting to learn more. It extends beyond sex trafficking and is a great resource on what trafficking entails. That ride will stick with me and has been fuel to expand my realm of social justice awareness.

-Meghan

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