The State of Human Trafficking, Part 2

The State of Human Trafficking, Part 2

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck7 Minutes

Craig von Buseck: According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 800,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States – roughly 2,000 per day.

Peggysue Wells: Early in his presidency, President Trump sent a message out to each of the states and he said, “Find your kids.” Recently in Michigan they found 50 kids that were missing. Indiana recently had a lot of children returned. I’m really thankful that he’s saying, “Not on my watch – not our kids.”

For parents, you’ve got to be checking your children’s phone to see who they are texting and talking to. Show up some times. If they are at sports practice after school, or even in their class room, just once-in-a-while show up. Find out where your kids are. You can’t always trust that they are where they say they are, because if they are being coerced they have to figure out a way to hide from you.

CVB: So how did you connect with Theresa Flores to write the book ‘The Slave Across the Street’?

Peggysue: She was a person with an amazing story who wasn’t a writer. I was a writer who needed my next book contract. But I’ll tell you what – I didn’t think it was possible in the U.S. I was as ignorant as everybody else. I got on the phone with Theresa and I said, “There’s nothing you can tell me that will scandalize me.” So she told me her story and she handed over her journal. I took that journal and turned it into this book.

CVB: Wow. So as you are going through this process, you experienced a transformation.

Peggysue: Absolutely. My son was with special forces at the time, catching pirates off the coast of Africa. I couldn’t know where he was, but one day he popped up on Facebook. He said, “What are you doing?” I answered, “I’m working on this project about human trafficking.” He writes back, “You know they have that on our bases, right?” I replied, “Please tell me it’s not our guys.” He answered, “Our guys are the ones with the money. They’re the ones that can pay for it, which is why there is a problem.”

CVB: Especially when you go to certain parts of the world where our income is so diametrically different. You are almost like a millionaire compared to your typical person. The temptation must be off the charts.

Peggysue: Yes.

CVB: That’s nothing new. Soldiers and sailors have traveled around the world and used prostitutes going back to ancient times.

Peggysue: When the U.S. left the Philippines, we left 100,000 babies there that were the children of our soldiers. I lived in Venetia, California. They had an armory there during World War Two and on Friday night the prisoners of war were paraded down to houses of prostitution, then taken back to the prison. That’s part of our history.

CVB: So for you, what was the process of coming into the light – going from “this couldn’t happen in America” to “this is definitely happening in my neighborhood?”

Peggysue: It was through Theresa’s story, for one, because she was in an upscale Detroit neighborhood that any of us could live in. So when I heard her story and the coercion, and the pressure, and how it happened, then it was easy to start looking around. You can watch kids who are doing well, and then suddenly they’re not doing well, they’re not showing up, and they look like they’ve had a hard day. They may start skipping class. They wear clothes that cover bruises and they shouldn’t be dressed in long sleeves in the summer. So there are a lot of signs.

The thing about Theresa’s story, and the thing that happens with most of us, is that it is so outside my idea of comprehending that this could be happening to a child. So even when you see all the symptoms, it may not even occur to you to think that this kid is being trafficked. But once you know what the symptoms are, then you can look for those children who are vulnerable and get help.

So we started a coalition to educate people on what to look for. We were at Hilton Head, South Carolina and she told us about her son, who does fumigation for insects. He told his mother he was at the Mexican restaurant and behind it was a suspicious looking shed. So they contacted the police who investigated and there were people who had been brought in from other countries who had been trafficked there.

There was another girl we know in Beaufort, South Carolina, who was talking to the waitresses in the oriental restaurant. These girls wouldn’t make eye contact with her and wouldn’t talk to her. There was a guy standing in the doorway going into the kitchen with a bag of ice, and he would just sort of hit it on his hand. So they left and called the police to tell them what they noticed. Sure enough, the girls were being beaten with bags of ice. So that restaurant was closed down for quite a while.

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