(Editor’s note: This story is the third part of a multi-part series “Last Seen…,” examining the real life horrors of kidnapping that began with Issue #7 and concludes in Issue #12. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.)
by NICOLE TRUGILLO/Editor-in-Chief
Many people don’t think of the aftermath of what can come from kidnapping.
They don’t think of the potential dangers that can happen after someone is kidnapped.
Renee Ramirez, an ambassador for Share Hope International based in Vancouver, Washington, goes out to the community and surrounding areas to help explain and educate people on what the effects of kidnapping can lead to. The most common result of kidnapping is being human trafficked, she said.
“We go everywhere within the community to talk about human trafficking,” Ramirez explains. “It’s free of charge, and we bring material out and we show a video called “Chosen.” It’s about these 16-year-old and 13-year-old girls who were human trafficked.”
Ramirez explains there are a lot of myths that many people believe about human trafficking.
“It varies, depending who we’re talking to,” says Ramirez. “I have my degree in criminal justice. So, when I speak to people who are on that side of the fence, like the people who work in law or social work, they typically know stats and ways to know acknowledge and prevent it. When I talk to teachers, or students, they often are not aware of it, and there are a lot of myths about human trafficking.”
According to Ramirez, People think that human trafficking is just sex trafficking, and that it only involves little girls or small children and women. But that’s not always the case.
“It’s across the board,” Ramirez explains. “It’s between birth and your death bed, and everything in the middle. It can be anywhere from selling people for labor or sex, anything they can get money for, and people don’t really understand that.”
Kidnapping plays a bigger part if someone gets human trafficked, according to Ramirez. She explains that there are so many different ways victims get kidnapped.
“The most common way to get kidnapped is through social media, and it’s actually from people they know,” says Ramirez. “Those victims get manipulated, and then they really do get taken into this underground world of human trafficking. Many people think that kidnapping is snatching someone off the street, which it definitely is that. But, it can also be portrayed that the kidnapper is pretending to be someone that they’re not, so you can have a face-to-face meeting with somebody.”
Ramirez points out that the kidnapping victims are usually younger because they are naïve.
“You have a young boy or girl who meets someone on social media like Kik, Snapchat, or on any of those dating websites apps, even on Facebook and Twitter,” explains Ramirez. “You can meet someone on these websites, and they can portray to be someone that they’re actually not.”
Ramirez continues, “For example, let’s say you have this 13-year-old kid who has met someone on one of these sites. The person that they’re talking to says that they’re 13 as well. They beginning talking and decide, ‘Let’s meet up at Starbucks, or grab something to eat. Let’s just hang out and get to know each other.’ So now this person has earned the trust of the child.”
According to Ramirez, when the victim meets the stranger, either they meet with them alone, or they bring a friend.
“When the kidnapper tells the victim, ‘Let’s go somewhere else, or somewhere more secluded,’ that’s when they take the person,” Ramirez explains. “There are a lot of forms of kidnapping, and that’s definitely a way that victims become part of human trafficking.”
Ramirez hopes to shed light on the kidnapping issue, along with the human trafficking issue. According to Ramirez, she wants people to understand what they should be aware of and take precautions.
“If you’re a young woman or a man, particularly a woman, you don’t want to park your car next to vans or larger SUVs, because those are vehicles that most likely are going to open the door and grab you,” says Ramirez. “Not to scare anyone, but it does happen. You want to park under a light and make sure you’re not on your phone if you walk out of the store, because someone who is planning on kidnapping you, they’re watching everything you do. They are watching how you’re walking.”
According to Ramirez, a person should walk confidently and not scared to avoid being a victim.
“If you’re walking around like you’re scared, then mostly likely you’re the one they will approach, than someone who walks confidently,” Ramirez says. “If you’re walking confidently, you’re showing you have authority, and that’s harder to take away.”
Ramirez explains that the number of human trafficking incidents has grown dramatically, and it is something that needs to be stopped.
“Human trafficking is the fastest growing organized crime, and kidnapping is tied into it,” says Ramirez. “My role in this organization offers opportunities to work with the victims and help them. Many people need to be aware of this. That way we can put a stop to it.”