Does the issue of human trafficking and the sex trade hit too close to home in our attitudes and perceptions?

Last evening’s interview with Nancy Deville was interesting in that it perhaps opens up a number of disturbing questions that many of us would prefer to leave in the dark recesses of being a “problem” in another, unfamiliar part of the world. Especially when said questions would perhaps hit a little too close to home in terms of our attitudes and perceptions.

Nancy Deville

Think about it for a moment, what does it say that 1 in 3 women experience some form of abuse, or the possibility that child beauty pageants are ultimately demeaning to both girls and women because they objectify from an early age and perhaps contribute to the callous “they had it coming” mindset that stigmatizes sexual assault? Perhaps it is no accident that 70% of the victims of human trafficking are women and girls, with up to 50% of these being minors.

As I talked with Nancy, whose usual genre of books on the subject of health and wellness such as “Death By Supermarket” have sold more than 650,000 copies worldwide, I realized that her departure from her usual subject matter through the release of Karma was more than just an adroit recounting of statistical realities. In fact as our conversation progressed, and it became clearer that the book’s protagonist (Dr. Meredith Fitzgerald) reflected the deeply held feelings and experiences of the author, the true point of contextual reference for the reader that came to light is the feeling of powerlessness that all women to some degree have or feel in their daily lives.

As Nancy so adeptly put it, anytime you feel trapped in a situation where you have to varying degrees lost your freedom of choice, is to a certain extent a shared experience for all women. The irony of course, and unlike those women and children that make up the 2.5 million victims (although Nancy’s research puts this at a much higher figure) of human trafficking, which by the way is the fastest growing industry in the world second only to the drug trade, is that here in North America at least the freedom lost is similar to that of the Spanish Prisoner.

For those who may not be familiar with the Spanish Prisoner, it quite simply relates the story of a man who after spending 20 years in jail one day decides to test the door of his cell only to discover that it has never been locked. Unlike the women and children from the 127 countries that are ravaged by the war and poverty that makes them vulnerable to the blight of human trafficking, those who live in the western world do have choices.

In this regard I am instantly reminded of my mother’s story, which happened long before I as well as my two brothers became part of what was a normal and happy suburban familial existence.

In the 1940’s the subject of divorce and spousal abuse, especially for a young woman raised in a Catholic home, wasn’t even recognized let alone discussed. In those days when you got married, you were married for life . . . for better or for worse. While this did not represent a physical cell, the entrapment of what some would consider to be misdirected religious conviction and societal mores was nonetheless powerful.

At a tender age my mother was courted by a strapping young man who happened to be one of her brother’s best friends. This courtship quickly turned to love and then marriage.

Shortly after the wedding, this gallant prince of a man who had swept my mother off her feet moved them from the familiar surroundings of Winnipeg to the bustling environs of Toronto. It was not long after this move that a fairy tale story turned into a nightmare of protracted physical and emotional abuse.

During this time, my mother was thrown down a flight of stairs breaking her arm, and subjected to the mental anguish of a husband who would bring his innumerable girlfriends home insisting that they were only friends and that “his wife” should be hospitable and prepare dinner for his guests. If she resisted, the repercussions were both swift and predictable.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not given the era, my oldest brother was born into this festering hell of apparent dysfunctional hopelessness. the word apparent here is key.

Perhaps driven by the responsibility of being a parent, and the love for her child, my mother took a job at the little bakery over which she lived. The fact that her husband was an alcoholic whose money ran out long before the next paycheck almost certainly played a part in her decision to enter the workforce.

The old couple who owned the bakery were well aware of the goings on within the confines of their tenant’s home and extended kindness at every opportunity from allowing my mother to keep the baby with her when she worked, to providing end of day bread for her to take home to withholding (at my mother’s request) a portion of her pay so that at least a small amount of her hard earned money would not end up at the bottom of a bottle.

It took approximately 4 years, but my mother saved up enough money to purchase a train ticket for her and her son. Then one night while her “prince charming” lay passed out with his head on the dining room table, she hurriedly packed up what she could and with my brother in arm caught a train back home to her family in Winnipeg.

In another twist of unexpected irony, rather than returning home to the judgmental scolding from her deeply religious parents, she found the loving embrace of understanding and support.

While I will not take the time within this text to share the details of the aftermath of her decision to leave, including the abduction of her son by an enraged father who insisted that “marriage was for life,” and that my mother “return to Toronto to fulfill her wifely duties,” I will tell you that this story does have a happy ending.

Mother in her twenties

What is important though, and entirely relevant to my interview with Nancy is that like the Spanish Prisoner, women in the Western world do have a choice and can as did my mother, decide or chose to push open the unlocked door of their current situation.

While providing a fictionalized account of one woman’s terrifying experience as a victim of the sex trade, the immutable truth of having a choice ultimately makes Karma a story of hope and the opportunity for a better tomorrow.

On this basis, Deville’s intuitively defined character should strike a chord with all readers, both women and men, making this a must read. Or to be even more direct, with the author hinting that a picture deal may be in the offing, don’t wait for the movie . . . buy the book!

Click here to buy the book!

Use the following link to access the on-demand version of last evening’s live broadcast of “Karma: Into the Dark Underbelly of White Slavery and the Sex Trade.”

Comments are closed.

  • Books Written by Jon Hansen

%d bloggers like this: