Young Woman Falsely Accused Of Human Trafficking While Selling Educational Books To Children

Young Woman Falsely Accused Of Human Trafficking While Selling Educational Books To Children

Taking social media community awareness too far.
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As I was scrolling through Facebook last week, I came across a lengthy post with a picture of a smiling young girl giving a thumbs up on somebody's doorstep. The picture was taken using Snapchat, and had a caption across it that read "if this girl comes to your door, don't answer it."

The user detailed how the girl had come to her doorstep selling educational books for children, and used her "smooth-talking" to come inside their home. The user claimed that the young saleswoman was actually involved in human trafficking and was using the books as a guise to case the home for children to kidnap. The user went so far as to accuse the saleswoman of using their bathroom only to examine pictures of her children.

At first, I was shocked. "How could a young girl do something like that to families? That's despicable." But after about 1 millisecond, my "don't-believe-everything-you-read-on-the-Internet" common sense kicked in, and I began my research.

After some easy Facebook digging, I found pictures of the girl standing next to a local police officer. Only she wasn't being cuffed or charged with human trafficking-- she was smiling at the camera just like she did in the picture that was used to falsely label her as a nefarious child-stealer.

Deja Miller is a college student working independently for a company called Southwestern Advantage. Southwestern Advantage hires college students to sell books to local families in order to help finance their education. Some notable former employees include Texas Governor Rick Perry, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, and author Martin Fridson.

From their website: "The Southwestern Advantage Sales & Leadership Program allows students to run their own businesses during their summer breaks through the product and training Southwestern Advantage offers. The students are independent contractors. They purchase products from Southwestern Advantage at wholesale and sell them to customers at retail."


So, after about five minutes of lightweight research, I uncovered the truth behind this "human trafficking threat." Why couldn't the Facebook user who labelled Deja as a human trafficker done this same research? Why do we live in an era where people are more inclined to type up a 500-word warning with no evidence and post it to social media rather than doing a little research?

As a person who lives in the neighboring village of Ada, I am fully aware of the suspicious and potentially dangerous activity related to human trafficking that has been going on in Lima recently. Human trafficking isn't a joke or something to be taken lightly. Toledo alone has become notorious for human trafficking in the United States, and with Lima being so close it's understandable that locals have become extremely cautious. Traffickers are men and women alike, which is one of the only statements which I could agree with on the Facebook post targeting Deja.

Now here's where the big BUT comes in: While I completely sympathize with the fear of the Facebook user and the fear that I've seen reflected throughout the community, I cannot sympathize with using social media as an engine for destroying a person's livelihood and career. Would it be worth it if she were a human trafficker and lives were saved? Sure. But my question is where was your evidence? What led you to believe that this harmless girl carrying a clipboard and some books was a danger to you and your children?

Fortunately, Deja was able to meet with local law enforcement to snap a few pictures for legitimacy and post them on her professional page to clear the air.

It seems that Deja has received a great deal of support from the community, but it's unsure what impact the post will have on her sales in Lima. Deja reported that she will be in town for the next two weeks selling books to children, presumably before she returns to school. Fortunately, the Facebook user removed the post after it was made clear that Deja is a legitimate saleswoman.

Is fear a good enough reason to label someone as a monster? Is it a good enough reason to circulate their picture via social media (traveling faster than those little pamphlets you get in the mail with local sex offenders) warning locals not to answer their doors? This is her livelihood, how she is making money to finance her education--potentially ripped away by a girl using Facebook as a weapon.

My question is, why was this harmless book saleswoman falsely labeled as a sex-trafficker? What is it about her appearance that makes her seem threatening? What was it about her personal demeanor that screamed "warning!" to you?


To Deja: I hope that this negative experience hasn't marred your opinion of Lima (or Ohio). I want to personally extend my thanks to you for the amazing work you're doing in this community. Keep doing you, girl!

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.
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Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school.

I'll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted.

Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I'm 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?"

A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?", I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week." I let it roll off of my back, I've spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back"… but I think it's time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister.

She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn't have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her.

I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn't though. I didn't let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization.

Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn't directed to what we, in today's society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one's self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 'You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 'Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 'You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 'Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so.

This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God's creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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The Pulse Affect

Where do we stand 2 years later?

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It's been 2 years since the infamous Pulse shooting and everyone, including myself, is still affected. I remember so clearly how I was too scared to go to any pride events afterward. I knew that's what the shooter wanted, was for us all to retreat back into the closest we so bravely came out of, but still, I couldn't bring myself to leave the bed.

The news had hit me harder than any of the previous shooting. While it was still a mass shooting such as what was happening at the schools, the target was more specific. He went in there with the mind of not just killing people, but people associated with the LGBT community. The scene was so horrible, that some of the first responders have even mentioned having PTSD still from the scene.

The news had sunk everyone's heart and many flocked to social media just to find out if friends were there or not. The toll was 49 innocent people who had lost their lives to a despicable individual I refuse to name. I feel he received too much attention in the media as it was.

It also didn't take long for the focus to switch from the victims to the "how could we prevent this"—which isn't a bad question, but the two sides who seemed to differ on opinions so much just turned it into yet another screaming match. That being said, those who weren't on the extreme end of it found themselves seeking comfort from each other. For many people, this attack did scare them, but I think within the horrifying event came a new sense of community.

For those who had family or friends that were victims of such an attack, my heart goes out to you. The mourning doesn't stop, and while I know there are no words that can be strung together to bring closure, I can show my support and continue to fight for equality and help educate whoever I can. The tragedy isn't something I wish on anyone, and the wound stills fresh to me despite not having any personal connections to anyone.

To end this story on a hopeful note, today people are doing positive things in honor of the victims of the pulse attack. One article writes about a couple who spends their time cleaning up the area of litter and mentions others donating money, objects, or their own time in hopes to help anyone in need. One direct quote from this article is "Last year, more than 2,500 people volunteered their time in support of Acts of Love and Kindness, and while there was no official tally yet for this year's outpouring, it seems likely that many will go uncounted."

I encourage people today to reach out to one another, no matter orientation or identity. Love one another and don't let things strip others of their human qualities. We are all human and have the ability to do good. The shooting was tragic, but we should not let it keep us from celebrating who we are and embracing each other with open arms. Don't let the worlds hate scare you or stifle your creativity. We will not let anyone push us back into the dark, no better their best effort. Live on and keep your heart open to love.

Cover Image Credit:


https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-gathered-near-building-holding-flag-at-daytime-919194/

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