HUMAN TRAFFICKING & COMIC BOOKS
By Thomas Estler
Comic books have historically been a popular means of educating people about social and safety issues. Now, a writer and an artist team up to combine their artistic superpowers to create a wonderful comic book that will teach young people how to avoid the dangers of being sold into the sex trade.
In 1948, the producers of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN radio program along with the help of activist Stetson Kennedy, infiltrated the KKK and created superhero stories depicting the KKK as villains. They publicly aired real clan rituals and code words, allowing local law enforcement to further infiltrate the KKK, villainizing the racist terror organization for generations to come. This was the beginning of comic book characters taking a role in the issues of social justice.
In this tradition, the comic book ABOLITIONISTA! addresses a critical issue confronting young people. Written by Thomas Estler and illustrated by Delilah Buckle, ABOLITIONISTA! educates at-risk children about the dangers of sex trafficking and gives them the tools to protect themselves. According to the US Justice Department, there are an estimated 200,000 American children trafficked into the sex industry every year and their average age is 12. The goal of ABOLITIONISTA! is to reach children before they are victimized and to give them the vital tools they need to protect themselves.
The story features Eden, a twelve year-old girl whose best friend runs away from home. Like a young detective, Eden investigates the mystery of her friend’s disappearance. Eden follows the clues--all of which are the typical red flags of a girl who’s been trafficked--and they lead right into the dangerous underground world of the sex industry. Will Eden be able to find her friend in time?
ABOLITIONISTA! engages and inspires young women to make smart decisions in their own lives and create conversations of empowered living within their networks of friends.
ABOLITIONISTA! tells one of the most common stories of a girl being trafficked into the sex industry, that of a young woman running away from home. There are 2.8 million children who run away from home every year and within 48 hours of leaving, one third of them will be accosted by a trafficker and/or recruited into child prostitution or the pornography industry. According to the FBI, child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country with a 2500% increase in arrests over the past 10 years. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported in 2009 that they discovered 10.5 million new images of children in pornography as they worked to identify and locate trafficked children.
Thomas Estler says, “One of the obstacles we faced in creating ABOLITIONISTA! was from parents and teachers who felt that the topic of human trafficking was too mature for an 11 year-old girl. This is the demographic most victimized by child sex traffickers, and it seemed to me that leaving this age group uninformed just left girls more vulnerable to being trafficked. So we tried to figure out a way to tell this story in a responsible way to satisfy the concerns of adults and still give children the information they needed to protect themselves. That’s when we came up with the idea of a child detective, Eden, who uncovers the story of her friend Delaria being trafficked rather than experiencing it herself.”
The ABOLITIONISTA! project is being funded on Kickstarter.com and once created, the ABOLITIONISTA! team will bring it to community leaders and get it implemented into the school system. The comic book itself explains the issue of human trafficking in terms of historic slavery just at a time when children are learning about American slavery in their classrooms. One of the main characters, Delaria, discovers a picture of her first ancestor brought to the new world as a slave.
Immediately this slave ancestor becomes a character in the comic book, and at Delaria’s bleakest hour, after she has been humiliated and abused by her trafficker, this ancestor appears to Delaria and tells her story of being a slave. It is only then that Delaria realizes that she has been enslaved by a trafficker whom she’s been thinking of as her boyfriend. She then is able to find the courage to break free from him.
Experts say that the most immediate and powerful deterrent to child sex trafficking is an educated child. Thomas Estler continues, “The idea behind using a comic book is to draw young people to this issue by using their own entertainment preferences. Our primary interest is to empower children to be their own protectors by showing them how to spot recruitment techniques of a trafficker and then how they can avoid being trapped by them. We do this by using the kind of suspenseful narratives and captivating graphics that make comic books great tools of communication and also one of the most popular reading materials for children today.”
For more information about ABOLITIONISTA!, please visit http://www.freedomladder.com.