“Abolish slavery everywhere, forever.” This is the mission and slogan of A21, an organization celebrity-singer Selena Gomez has recently become vocal about as an intern working for the non-profit. The goals of A21 are to put an end to human trafficking and end all slavery. In an interview with Elle Magazine, Gomez said, “I can’t be silent about this... The idea of human trafficking to me is... I’m flabbergasted.”
According to the A21 website, human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal industries, making more than $150 billion every year. Gomez, who is currently working on a new album after moving and changing the pace of her life, has been volunteering and interning with A21 since March of this year. Their goal is to stop human trafficking in all forms, which includes sex trafficking, forced labor and child soldiers.
Gomez’s goal in doing her interview with Elle was to spread the word and help strengthen this organization, as well as promote some of her new music and her new fashion line with Coach. Instead, the interview focused on Gomez’s personal life: church, both her intimate relationships as well as her friendship with long-time friend Demi Lovato who recently overdosed, and unreleased lyrics to some of her new songs. Gomez quickly took to her Instagram to clarify, “I understand that reporters are working to grab the attention of a reader, however I will always work to ensure that what is public represents my truth,” Gomez said. “I’m a bit bummed but rarely surprised.”
While sometimes thought of as problem of the past, or a problem for third-world countries, human trafficking hits much closer to home today than it appears. According to Humantraffickinghotline.org, the statistics for human trafficking in 2017 in America show that 1,305 cases were tracked in California, followed by 792 cases in Texas. However, this statistic is only based on calls received and cases reported, not able to include cases unreported.
This form of modern day slavery continues to get closer with some cases being reported in Sonoma County. According to the Press Democrat, a man and his mother were charged with human trafficking in Santa Rosa in February of this year. The mother-son duo have been running a sex trafficking ring out of their home for a decade and were expanding to a home in Rohnert Park when police were tipped off by property management. One of the girls who was recruited into the prostitution ring was a child, the Press Democrat reported.
This story was broken just a month after a local girl came forward to the press with her own story of human trafficking also taking place in Sonoma County. Argus-Courier reported the story of Maya Babow, a Petaluma resident who faced years of sex trafficking after being seduced by an abductor at the age of 12. Babow, now 21, said, “I was so discombobulated and scared and tired and hurt. I’d do anything for food and water … it was a cycle of men and sleep and being forced to have sex and people beating me.” Babow hopes that by telling her story, she’ll raise awareness of human trafficking, especially at the local level.
Petaluma Police Detective Sgt. Paul Gilman told the Argus-Courtier, “Generally what we’ll see is someone trafficked from a nearby jurisdiction for the purposes of having underage sex and that person doesn’t have a way out. They’re stuck in the lifestyle due to separation from family and controlled through narcotics and stuff like that.”
After a long 2017 for Gomez, she found herself at an orientation for A21 to end all human trafficking everywhere. “I know my voice is very prominent, but I’m not careless with it” Gomez said. “I’m selective.”
Actor Ashton Kutcher has used his platform to also shine the light on A21 in hopes to end modern slavery. Many other celebrities have supported similar organizations like the HRC- Human Rights Campaign. Some of these other big names include George Clooney, Lady Gaga, Whoopi Goldberg, Brad Pitt, Chelsea Clinton and many others according to the hrc.org. For more information on these organizations, what they do, and how to help, visit A21.org or HRC.org.