WARNING: Descriptions of sexual abuse and attempted suicide may be disturbing to some readers, discretion is advised.
(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Two organizations, Compass 31 and Veterans for Child Rescue, work to promote awareness on preventing human trafficking.
Jennisue Jessen founded Compass 31 and serves on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
“The people who are being exploited are often afraid to trust the police or they believe what the person exploiting them has told them, that it’s more dangerous out there,” Jessen said.
Jessen said human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the world because it is highly profitable and that it is happening in Colorado.
“We tend to think about trafficking happening somewhere far off the other side of the world in these you know, impoverished places,” Jessen said. “But in reality, our I-25 corridor is a hotspot. People are coming up and down I-25. They’re going across the I-70. They’re being exploited regularly.”
There are several pieces of advice Jessen shared on what to look out for if someone is victimized to human trafficking.
“If they are becoming secretive, withdrawn, if they are struggling with anxiety, depression, cutting, those are all symptoms that something’s happening that they’re trying to suppress or medicate,” Jessen said. “And it may very well not be trafficking but something’s happening. And if something’s happening that they’re trying to self-medicate or whether it’s substance abuse or cutting or some other area that they’re trying to do that, then trafficking is always an exploitation of vulnerability.”
When asked why she was passionate about fighting for human trafficking prevention, Jessen shared she was someone victimized by a family member.
“I think like most people are, our greatest pain can be our greatest superpower,” Jessen said. “And I myself, I grew up in the Midwest, in southern Missouri, and my grandfather started selling me to other men for sex at the age of four, and that went on for 14 years. So 14 years of all the trauma and drama you might imagine of rape for profit, culminating in a failed suicide attempt at the age of 17.”
Veterans for Child Rescue is another organization working to promote awareness of child trafficking in our country.
“I spent my life in counterterrorism. I worked at the highest level of the SEAL team counterterrorism realm,” said Craig Sawyer, Founder of Veterans for Child Rescue. “And I learned that children are being terrorized, traumatized here in the United States worse than anything that I was fighting to prevent elsewhere. And I founded Veterans for Child Rescue specifically to expose the covert domestic operation of child trafficking that is run inside the United States at industrial scale.”
Sawyer said Veterans for Child Rescue runs investigations throughout the year and runs joint operations with federal local law enforcement.
“We arrest child predators with a 100% conviction rate,” Sawyer said. “We spent three years filming a very powerful documentary, ContraLand, which people can watch for free at no charge…. And we’re alerting the populace trying to educate people so that they can safeguard our children against this industrial scale crime that is the fastest growing criminal enterprise on earth. “
When asked why he is passionate on fighting against human trafficking, Sawyer explained that his daughter was abducted.
“I’m passionate because, number one, our daughter was abducted and deeply traumatized by this crime,” Sawyer said. “And we recovered our daughter. But many of them do not come home. They do not survive and our daughter is a fighter. She fought back and we put her predator away for 68 years.”
Sawyer shared that a challenging part of his job is hearing the stories of victims.
“Many child victims don’t speak about it until they’re in their 40s or 50s, if ever,” Sawyer said. “And when they share with me the brutality and the trauma that they suffered and the impact on their life, it’s gut-wrenching and it’s heartbreaking and that’s what drives me.”
In promoting awareness for human trafficking prevention, Jessen explained what a situation may look like of an individual who is in this situation.
“We kind of tend to think [of] Hollywood and they just take it in or, you know some beat-them-up movie, where they’re kicking down doors and girls are tied up,” Jessen said. “And in reality, the vast majority of captivity, if you will, is psychological. The trafficker wins the trust and the loyalty of a vulnerable person and then uses that against them.”