On September 29th 2015, the Daily Nation reported the tragic death of a 19 year old girl who committed suicide because someone she met online and later in person threatened to reveal her nude photos online. Read the story full here. It is tragic when a young girl, with dreams and potential takes her own life because she is being exploited.
Mercy, like any other young girl her age was on social media to find friends and even love. She had no idea that this is where her trap lay. A trap that would eventually lead to her death. She met someone on Facebook and later organized to meet them on a date. We have no idea what exactly happened but we know that this man by the name Marco Ritz sexually abused her, according to her death note, to the point that she needed medical help. Unfortunately because she had been warned about this man by the people that surrounded her, she had no one to turn to when things went sour. She had to handle the pain alone and that pain overwhelmed her to the point that she felt suicide was the only option.
As I read, Mercy’s story I could not help but feel anger. I am angry that this had to happen and unfortunately might continue to happen if we continue handling such situations in the same way. Nowhere in this article does the author mention that Mercy, if her story is correct, like many other young people was a victim of trafficking. No one, identifies her as such in the numerous comments that follow the story. This is mainly because like many other victims of trafficking Mercy suffered in silence and even blamed herself because of a crime she had no knowledge had been committed. Mercy was a victim of a form of sex trafficking that has emerged with the advancement of technology. Traffickers target vulnerable people and begin relationships with them and later use things like nude photos to control them and ensure that they remain silent about what happened to them.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have become part and parcel of how we socialize today. The fact that they can be used by traffickers is not a surprise because human trafficking is an organism that is constantly adapting and constantly evolving depending on what is happening around us. What is sad is that traffickers seem to be always ahead of the society in this battle. They know a few things that we don’t know. You just need to read Mercy’s story and the comments that follow to note the following things:
- People lack awareness of the complex nature of human trafficking and traffickers take advantage of the fact that they will rarely if ever be identified as criminals because the society does not understand the crime. Mercy is not being called a victim of trafficking neither did she see herself as such.
- Victimization of victims of trafficking is an impediment to them speaking up or seeking help that they desperately need and traffickers understand this. Mercy blamed herself for what happened to her and you only need to read the comments to understand that this opinion is shared by many people. People claimed that she brought this upon herself for wanting a better life. Blaming the victim has always been an issue in counter-trafficking efforts because as a long as you blame the victim, the criminal will always get away. Traffickers understand how the society perceives certain things and they understand that if they can distort our ability to identify victims they will always get away.
- Silence of the victims also plays a huge role in the fight against human trafficking. When the victims are silent like Mercy, we cannot offer help and perpetrators get away. However, when victims don’t understand that they have been exploited and cannot trust that they will be protected, they will remain silent. Silence is heaven to the trafficker and they will do everything in their power to keep victims silent. They understand the value of silence and we don’t understand the power of victims’ voices.
Mercy could not be saved, but her story teach us to be able to identify trafficking and to understand that it is within our power to stop human trafficking. If you or anyone has gone through something similar, then it is important to know that you can get help. HAART is an organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking and helping girls like Mercy.
Rest in peace Mercy.
By Sophie Otiende