The State of Human Trafficking, Part 1

The State of Human Trafficking, Part 1

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck9 Minutes

Craig von Buseck: Your bestselling book, The Slave Across the Street is celebrating ten years in print with a new updated edition. Tell us about this important book on human trafficking, and about the new book.

Peggysue Wells: The Slave Across the Street is the true story of an upscale Detroit teenager who was trafficked for two years. Usually we don’t get these people back to know their story. Usually they don’t survive. So ten years ago we wrote about Theresa’s story.

The new release is a handbook that we wrote for middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, and also for people that work with kids because this is happening under our noses all the time. This book helps people to recognize the signs of trafficking and how to prevent it. It also tells people what drives it, why it’s happening, and what makes someone a target.

CVB: So tell us how someone gets pulled into this life.

Peggysue: Usually the victim is someone who is vulnerable. Slavery has never been about race, color, religion – it’s always about who is vulnerable and who is going to bully them. If you look back in time and you look at slavery in Rome, the Romans enslaved everybody. What we have now is a lot of children who are vulnerable. One out of four homes in America is headed by a single parent, and eighty percent are Moms. She’s working several jobs to keep food on the table, so the kids aren’t getting as much attention as they should.

Most of those kids have had a parent that has left them, so they are feeling lonely and they have that craving for attention.

CVB: Abandonment.

Peggysue: Much abandonment. So that’s what these traffickers hone in on. We interviewed some former traffickers. One guy said he could go to a mall and within 30 seconds of approaching a girl he knew if he had her. He said, “I don’t go for the beautiful ones, because they know they’re beautiful. I don’t go for the ugly ones because they don’t believe me. I go for the middle girl and I say to her, ‘hi beautiful.’ If she ignores me and moves on, she’s not vulnerable. But if she kind of blushes and looks down, I’ve got her.”

It’s supply and demand that drives trafficking and sex slavery. So you can have a hotel full of girls, but if nobody showed up trafficking would stop. So I went on a hunt for was who is participating and why is this increasing?

I spoke with Dr. Earl Henslin, who does imaging of human brains. He told me that when he images a brain for any reason, he can tell from the image when that person is addicted to pornography. It re-wires the brain. So you go from protector to predator. So that’s what’s driving this.

People’s involvement with porn starts with looking, and then you need more. So it’s all driven by porn. Every john that is picked up is addicted to porn.

CVB: What did you discover about drug addiction and trafficking? I’ve heard many stories about young girls who get hooked on heroin. They end up losing their job, so they have no source of money and they start selling their bodies. Did you find a lot of that?

Peggysue: It actually happens more often that the girls get connected to a guy who is grooming her, and then he introduces them to the drugs. Then also when a girl is taken, the first thing they do is put her on drugs because she is more controllable. So girls who are trafficked only survive two to five years. They die either by being beaten to death, or by a drug overdose, or if they get the opportunity they will kill themselves rather than continue in the lifestyle they are in.

What people don’t realize is that this is happening in every neighborhood. I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana – the city of churches. There have been articles in the newspaper where the police have found trafficked victims. Several of my friends have stories where their child has been approached.

One of my friends has an adopted child who had a difficult background and is very needy. She was trafficked for a while, but we got her back. They’ve tried to get her some help, but it does something to you. It’s really hard to recover from that. It takes very specialized counseling and trained people to work with them.

But we really need to work to stop trafficking before it happens. I talk to parents and ask, “Are you paying attention to your children? Do you know where they are? Do you pick up their phone and skim through it every day?”

The kids may get mad that you’re looking at their phone, but you are the parent and they are under 18. There are some very scary Apps, where girls are talking to strangers and get pulled in very quickly. So watch your kids with Apps all the time. Be aware of what is going on out there.

Get up at night and check their bedrooms. Make sure they are in bed and have not snuck out somewhere.

That’s what happened to Theresa Flores [the subject of The Slave Across the Street]. She would sneak out at night. But she was also being blackmailed. She didn’t want to do this.

Theresa lives in Ohio now and she’s working on pushing through anti-trafficking legislation. It used to be that when the people in sex slavery were arrested, the ‘johns’ were just sent on their way because there was nothing on the books to convict them. But she’s working to change that.

CVB: Wow. That’s hard to believe. Why weren’t the ‘johns’ being prosecuted?

Peggysue: Because there were no laws saying that what they were doing is illegal. So what’s happening now is that they are being charged with kidnapping and rape.

CVB: That’s what I was going to say – isn’t it kidnapping.

Peggysue: Yes. But there was not a law on the books in many places. We’ve seen on the news where they say they busted a house in New Orleans and put the girls in jail. There’s no such thing as a prostitute. No girl wants to do this. They are all being coerced in some way. So these girls were being punished for doing something that they didn’t want to do anyway. The actual criminals are the traffickers and the johns.

Read The State of Human Trafficking, Part 2

If you need help, call the Human Trafficking Hotline (toll-free): 1-888-373-7888

For more information go to

You can also find resources and help at Theresa’s website,

Order your copy of The Slave Across the Street