Live blog, TEDxColumbus

Theresa Flores – Live Blog

2011 TEDxColumbus
Here’s the secret that Theresa Flores shared at the start of her talk: human trafficking happens. And it’s more common than we think, even in Ohio.

Human trafficking immediately brings up some distressing, but distant, images: third world countries, children working on plantations for no wage, and prostitution. Flores is here to present a different picture: herself.

She started by recounting her really normal family and normal childhood, complete with the photos that show it. She’s got images of her house, her family, and herself. Her story is familiar: she moved to a new town, met new people, and started attending a new high school.

And at this new school, she experienced something that’s still pretty familiar: she fell for the alluring, well-dressed, mysterious guy. She had a crush on him for a while, but one day, she accepted a ride home from the stranger.

That’s when her story takes a turn from the familiar to the horrible. This is the part of the story that brings human trafficking out of the third world and into OUR world. The mysterious stranger took her home, flirted with her, drugged her drink, and raped her. His friends took pictures of the rape, and the mysterious stranger threatened to show the pictures around if Flores didn’t do what he said.

Under threats of death to her family, Flores was forced into prostitution by this gang.  At one point she was sold to the highest bidding John in a dingy hotel room. And, she explains, even the men that came to have sex with her sometimes didn’t know that she was forced to be there, that she was the victim of human trafficking.

And no one knows about the victims of human trafficking. In Ohio, according to a study, over 1,079 kids are being trafficked at this moment. No one knows about these children. No one knows about the forced prostitution and tortures perpetrated against so many people because of human trafficking.

Flores is trying to change that. She works with a place called Gracehaven that is devoted to raising awareness of human trafficking and trying to help its victims recover from the ordeal.

But raising awareness about these things is bigger than just education and PR. Flores is aiming higher: her organization seeks out dingy motels like the one in which she was tortured and tries to place little bars of soap with a message on them. That message tells these victims that someone wants to help, that if they call, they will get the support they need. Flores’s organization placed these bars of soap in motels all over the country.

 

One day, someone called. A girl who was being held in a motel bathroom in Dallas grabbed that bar of soap and called for help. One little bar of soap saved this girl.

That’s why Flores says that her talk isn’t a sad one. It’s a story of hope. One bar of soap saved a girl’s life. And with the community’s support, Flores hopes to save many, many more.