I was so fortunate to be able to attend a lecture from Temple Grandin. She is an autistic person who has achieved much and overcame obstacles that were turned into assets. She has an HBO movie about her life, she revolutionized the slaughter industry to be more humane and efficient, she also has helped parents and teachers of “different thinkers” to understand the potential and worth of all minds, and she is a Professor in the Department of Animal Science at Colorado State University.
It is not lost on my observations that a person with a disorder that is known for lack of communication, language and social connection has drawn a standing room only crowd, has achieved a PhD, and is about to speak to a very large and eagerly waiting live audience. This shows me, yet again, that absolutely anything is possible.
It takes passion, some luck, and guidance along the way. Many people were instrumental in Grandin’s success, including Grandin. Then I defaulted back to my perspective of human trafficking. What if a rising star, full of potential like Grandin, had been groomed and recruited by traffickers? What would the world have lost and how lucrative would she have been for the traffickers? She would be safe for them because she would be unlikely to speak or be believed, and would probably be very easy to isolate from society.
I shudder and return to reality as she enters the stage. A large crowd applauds, she is introduced and starts off immediately with a comment that makes everyone laugh. She is jovial, well spoken, and a joy to listen to, I would even say entertaining as she points out the obvious observations that many people miss or might be timid to say aloud. She lists the things that helped her to achieve in her life journey and I realize that she is also listing the things that might help prevent victims from being groomed by traffickers.
Reaching and Teaching Life Lessons
She spoke of her family teaching manners. Even though she was autistic she was not to scream, throw fits or cause a scene. She talks about one time licking an ice cream cone like a dog, it was taken away and she was told she must eat it correctly. She wanted that ice cream cone so she never forgot that lesson. So simple, yet in the time of the millennials that simple teachable moment might be actually controversial. She also spoke about being engaged. It didn’t matter if she didn’t want to become social, it was expected.
Her example was of a community movie night, she said, “I was expected to attend. The choice was you can run the projector or sit in the audience but you WILL attend.” Again, another moment that might be viewed as old fashioned. I was at an recent event where one child wanted to attend and the other did not. The one that did not was taken by a parent to wait in the car rather than attending. I remembered my grandmother and thought, oh my, she would have not handled it that way, and giggled at the thought. The point is that some of the 50’s era parenting had a lot of value in creating successful adults.
Grandin also spoke about the many jobs she had starting at a young age and how each of them added to her skill set and the experiences are still with her in her career today. She spoke of Millennials not having real work experience, learning to be on time, finishing a job or task, and doing tasks they do not want to do. She was very funny and very on point about the damage caused by bullying, labels, lack of real world experience, and coddling.
Targets of Trafficking
When I default back into my world of human trafficking while thinking about Grandin’s comments about all the kids/adults she sees “on the Spectrum” ( having traits of Asperger’s, Autism or some other different way of processing information) and her worry for where they will wind up again, I shudder. She spoke about all the people on the spectrum in Silicon Valley working at Google, Apple, etc. I think to cases that I am working on now and she is correct. Many of the victims are “geek” types that have been targeted by traffickers. I think of several cases we are working on and wonder how many more there are that no one knows about.
While filming my episode of MSNBC’s Sex Slaves: Texas Rescue we met one clearly disabled victim being prostituted using her small size to market her as a childlike image for the buyers. She was clearly mentally deficient and could not process the information that we were there to help her, she just couldn’t understand such a concept. We had another case where the victim was totally brilliant in drawing and design, yet someone was prostituting her. We made three contacts with her and each time she was so excited about design, yet we couldn’t get help to her. On another case a young man who was intellectually brilliant, however, a social outcast at school, was targeted by traffickers and when warning his parents about this his father said, “well, at least he has friends now. We are so happy for him.”
It makes me wonder how right Grandin is and what happens to the “different thinkers.” We all need to become teachers, mentors, and helpers that build their social ties and make them aware of their abilities and worth to society. Because, if we don’t, predators will likely define their worth for them and then traffickers benefit and civil society loses. It matters to all of us.
I am grateful for Grandin’s life journey and all she has to offer. I can see the thousands, if not millions, of people and animals she had affected in positive ways and I wonder who else we have missed because their minds and souls were stolen by traffickers.
It’s up to us, all of civil society, to make our communities safe for victims (and different thinkers) and hostile to traffickers.
Remember Grandin’s quote “Nature is cruel but we don’t have to be.”
To experience Temple Grandin watch the video of her 2010 TED Talk and visit her website TempleGrandin.Com:
Dottie Laster is affiliated with the non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She created their Save One Soul human trafficking outreach.
As a weekly Co-Host on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Roth Show, Laster presents discussion and guests who speak out about a variety of controversial subjects surrounding the abolishment of human trafficking and corresponding crimes.
Dottie Laster is featured in the documentary on sex trafficking in Latin bars and cantinas, The Cantinera, and her direct rescue work is the subject of the MSNBC Documentary, Sex Slaves: Texas Rescue. She is the recipient of several human rights awards and has been featured in numerous publications including recent issues of Texas Monthly, Town Hall, and MORE Magazine.
Dottie Laster is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting which has consulted in several high-profile trafficking cases, and has been directly and indirectly responsible for the rescue and restoration of hundreds of trafficking victims. Her strong multi-disciplinary team has an established track record and provide project development, consultancy, and training resources in domestic and international trafficking.
To book trainings in your community and become involved in making your area safe for victims and their families, and hostile to traffickers, contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-0859 or email email@example.com