This is the second summer that I’ve been a member of the Franciscan Peacemaker’s team.  We began the summer with warmer temperatures, planned vacations, children out of school, and the coveted “Road Trip(s)”.

We’ve also seen signs as we drive along the highways alerting us to the Heavy Traffic that we are about to encounter.

Unfortunately, while doing our outreach, we too have seen signs, although not written, that there is Heavy Traffic.  We have seen an increased number of women and men who present themselves as women, walking the streets in certain neighborhoods.  Not only do we encounter more people in the areas known for prostitution, we see more people on streets where sex for sale did not occur or has not occurred in years.

We stop, ask if they’re doing okay? If they are hungry?  We see familiar faces and unfortunately new faces as traffic increases.

We see faces that contain fear, that is when there is a man next to them, behind them, or down the street, giving them a “look”.  That “look” is for them to accept what we have to offer and keep going.  That “look” is directing them to not talk too much, not ask if we are able to take them to safety.   Many of the women and men are being trafficked to offer sex for money which they hand over or use to buy drugs for themselves and the men.  It is saddening, and maddening that there is little to nothing we can do.

This work has trained me and others who do similar work, to notice this activity on the street in new and familiar neighborhoods, while at festivals and fairs, while on vacation in other cities and states.  If we think it’s safe for the person, we ask if we can help them.  If we don’t think it’s safe, we have a gut-wrenching pain.  It is our hope that we can spread education and awareness so that more eyes notice this traffic and we can slow down and eventually stop all this traffic!

Mary Leach-Sumlin, Associate Director of Franciscan Peacemakers and Director of Clare Community