This week’s Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit episode focuses on a largely present, yet drastically underreported phenomenon occurring throughout the world and even here, at home, in the United States. At this moment in time, there are roughly 27 million enslaved human beings on our planet (Kevin Bales in Disposable People). Enslavement can mean anything, commonly this translates to forced labor or forced prostitution. This means that in our day there are almost 7 times as many slaves than there were in the U.S. slave trade during the antebellum period.
SVU brings up some interesting points in this week’s episode regarding current laws in the United States. Listen and pay attention to how difficult it is for the laws and law enforcement to intervene in these cases. Things are never black and white, many of these victims are so submerged in their dehumanized status that they commonly do not know what else to do. Unfortunately, our justice system is a system of laws made by people rather than of justice. We must strive as a society to harmonize the two, and current laws are hopefully moving further in this direction. By investigating these issues and learning of their complexity, hopefully our legal system can begin to bring about justice in these cases.
In this short clip from the episode, notice how many of the victims are not being physically restrained at the exact moment. In reality, they may believe they have no option to escape or any hope for rescue. I highly encourage you to check out this episode and then think about it. Obviously, most of us would recognize this as horrible, but what many people do not realize is the viewpoint of the victim. I believe this begins to capture that perspective.
For further reading on the issue, I would suggest:
“A Crime so Monstrous” by E. Benjamin Skinner
“Not For Sale” by David Batstone
There are plenty of others, however, these two specifically provide an excellent introduction.