When I was a reporter for The Belleville Telescope in Belleville, Kansas, I often visited with two nuns, Sister Mary and Sister Margaret, who were with the Sisters of St. Joseph. They were humanitarians, and had helped nuns in the former USSR rebuild their lives and their church and care for orphans after the USSR dissolved. It consumed their time and energy for over a decade. They took some time, and determined they were ready for a new area of focus, and felt led to champion the cause of working to end human trafficking. That is where I first became aware that there is a human slave trade today, and that it is vast, having a presence in every country, including my own, the United States. I was shocked to learn that women and children are kidnapped and held captive, forced to become sex slaves for black marketers and pimps, and when they are used up, discarded like empty fast food containers. I was especially disturbed to learn that events like the Super Bowl attract these elements, because they know there are plenty of people willing to pay for a chance to use these slaves. The nuns took part in an effort to inform and extract pledges from hotel owners and managers to be aware of and report human trafficking happening under their very own noses.
Then, my mother recommended a series of books to me, which she found incredibly gripping and raw and she couldn’t put down. The series starts with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I loved it. I had to read book two, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and that is the one that really bit and stung me. Here, suddenly, was a book that brought human trafficking into the spotlight in a raw and unflinching way.
My first reactions to what the nuns were working on suddenly seemed more tangible, more something that could happen to someone I know, even though we lived in a rural area over an hour from a major city. Ironically, a short time later, I interviewed a caseworker for DVAC, a domestic violence advocacy organization in the North Central Kansas area. She described for me what it is like to be an isolated, rural victim of domestic abuse. I realized how easy it would be for truly bad people to be able to do unmentionable things to women and children and never get caught. The image of a forgotten warehouse and a farm house set in the countryside of Sweden could so easily be set in the countryside of Kansas. It makes you wonder how many “abandoned” places really are abandoned.