Thursday marked the fifth annual “Shine a light on slavery day.” Throughout the country it was common to see people with red “Xs” on their hands, or wearing a pin. On social media the hashtag #EndItMovement.
The goal is to start a conversation and to push for a change. The coalition involved is composed of 16 non-profit partners aimed at generating global awareness about current day slavery.
“A lot of times we talk about it we mistake it for prostitution,” said Deb Ellinger, one of the founders behind Elli’s House. “These girls don’t want to be out on the street. They do no want to be. This is not the job they choose. They’re being trafficked and forced to stay.”
Ellinger recently founded an organization aimed at taking women off the streets. She’s in the process of purchasing a home for victims of the human sex trade.
“It breaks my heart,” said volunteer Monica Destfanis. “I have a 12-year-old daughter and it hurts to think that she could be subject to this as well.”
Just last week, Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher went to Capitol Hill to talk about modern day slavery. Kutcher started a nonprofit years ago to help combat human trafficking and talked about the horrific images he’s seen during his work.
“I’ve been on FBI raids where I’ve seen things no man should see,” said Kutcher, noticeably disturbed while giving his testimony before senators. “I’ve seen video content of children the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia.”
He also offered hope, adding that his group has helped cut down on the time it takes to find predators on the dark web: “We’ve taken the investigating time of these dark web crimes from three years down to what we think is three months.”
Back in Detroit, the work continues on a smaller scale. Ellinger said she’s hoping to have a home for victims up and running within the year, but in the meantime she and nearly 20 volunteers perform street ministry and are fighting the battle on the front lines.
According to her, the reaction from the community has been strong. She knows many of the business owners in east Detroit and they even contact her when they see suspicious stuff.
“Most people don’t want this in their neighborhood. This is their neighborhood and they don’t want it here.”