I’ll begin by saying that “human trafficking” should just be referred to as “sex slavery” because that’s exactly what it is. Human trafficking is just too light of a term to describe what goes on every day. Even in the United States. Even in my state. Even in Sacramento, California.
There are an estimated 4 to 27 million slaves in the world today. Slavery by modern standards has been broken into 2 categories by Unicef and the US government: Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking. Sex trafficking as: “a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”
And there are 100,000-300,000 sex slaves in the U.S. Right now. In 2013. Typically the victims are young girls (average age is 13) who seek love, affection, approval. Approximately 60% are foster home youths. Vulnerable souls who may be homeless, bullied or orphaned. The statistics are sickening. We live in an evil world.
Some victims don’t report their situation because they are afraid. Or they are shamed. Or maybe they are just loyal to their “master”. Sometimes it’s just hopelessness that leads their silence. My heart is heavy for these broken souls, and that is why I am trying to help the Run for Courage, Inc. organization and Vicki Zito spread her message.
Vicki Zito founded Run For Courage after her 17 year old girl was taken from local suburb and made a sex slave for 8 days before the FBI finally came to her rescue. Following the tragedy, and having never heard the term “sex trafficking”, Vicki Zito, Ashlie Bryant, Stephanie Loos, Amy Johnson, founded Run For Courage, Inc.
Here are some other facts from the Run for Courage website:
- It is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 children are being sexually exploited each year in the United States and approximately 1.2 million sex trafficked victims overseas.
- The average age of the victims recovered in The United States is 13 years; overseas, the average age is 10 years.
- Trafficking of minor girls is the fastest growing crime in the U.S.
- Pimps can make up to $652,000 on 4 girls
- Convictions net 5-8 years in CA
- With “good behavior” it is much less
- Convictions net 12-15 years from the Feds
I found out about the organization when a friend of mine (Jed, winner of the 5K for 3 years in a row) ran the race last year and afterward attended a party that Andy and I were having. He was wearing the medal he won and he told us a little about the race and the cause.
I then found Run for Courage online, but it still didn’t register to me how much of a massive problem that sex slavery really is (even locally). It was not until this year then I was sent an email from my blogger buddy Margaret asking if their were any bloggers out there who would be interested in covering the 2013 Race for Courage (taking pictures of the race and writing about it). And then there was the moving interview with Ashlie Bryant I heard on the Armstrong and Getty show. You can listen to the interview here.
I immediately called Erin Walsh (Margaret’s contact for the organization), because my plan was to see if she might be interested in having me actually run the race and write about it from a runner’s point of view. We spoke for a while about the sort of post I would write, and a few days later I was on my way to pick up my race packet at Sports Authority in Folsom.
I was not sure whether I wanted to run the 5K or the 10K… I was eager to try and improve my times for both distances. I finally decided on the 10K, and decided I would try and break 50:00 mins. (My PR at the time was 50:31.)
Everything was perfect the morning of the race. The weather cooperated, and I had plenty to eat and just enough sleep the night before. I put on my running clothes and pinned on my number, and I was ready for battle!
The Run for Courage was one of the best organized local races I have run. There is such a great vibe in the air. There are so many volunteers and sponsors at Run for Courage. Even though we all gathered there together to benefit a cause born out of an unpleasant situation, everyone had a smile on their face. There were even entire families that ran the race together. The course was very well marked and there was always someone to cheer you on and point you in the right direction to keep you on course.
As for me, I ran as hard as I could. The entire time. The course is not an easy one. It is mostly paved, but it is a bit hilly, and there are many parts of the course where I was running on dirt, gravel, and across several foot bridges. I found a few people to run with that really kept me going, but by the fourth mile, I was getting a little tired. I remembered thinking about a training run i had done the week before that was 11.25 miles long. I remember being at the 9th mile and thinking… “it’s only two more miles and we’re done.” So, I applied the same attitude to this race. I told myself that it would all be over in less than 20 minutes. I was not struggling for air, and I was not in pain. I actually felt blessed. So on I went, and I reached the finish line just 11 seconds shy of my goal. I crossed at 50:10, still a new personal record by 20 seconds! My average pace per mile was 8 minutes and 5 seconds. I was pretty thrilled with that.
Thanks to Erin Walsh and Ashlie Bryant for allowing me to be a part of the Run for Courage. I only hope I can encourage my readers to run the upcoming race in Oakland on November 2nd, or to join the race next year.
I hung around a little bit after the race to watch the awards ceremony, and to chat with some others who had also run the race. That day over 2,800 people registered to walk or run and there were 300 volunteers!
You can run the Run for Courage 5K or 10K on November 2nd in Oakland at Lake Merritt. Learn more and register for the race here.
You can visit the Run for Courage Facebook page here.