I’ve only had a few moments where I felt my character was on the line. It’s like the differences between tests and exams. The exam moments of life. I’ve spent the last nine months working with teens in New York to build an anti-trafficking campaign geared towards their generation. So as I walked along the sidewalk in Long Island City and I saw the 6’4”+ middle aged man walking with a barefoot, clearly drugged woman half his age, every molecule in my body tensed. I slowly continued down the block and as I passed them, I heard him say to someone on the phone something regarding a hostage situation- in an instant I was in an exam moment.
What could I do? Which hotline do I call? How much power does the security guard Duane Reade actually have?
I said a quick prayer that a cop would be around the corner, on the next block- and I vowed that if I saw one, I would say something.
I looked, I lingered, I kept looking back. The girl it seems couldn’t walk because the “couple” was paused on the corner. Moments that seemed like minutes passed. I knew I couldn’t stand there staring but I was afraid to let them out of my sight. As I crossed the street to get on the subway, defeated and frustrated, and head home- I literally took one last look back. A cop car pulled on to the street behind me. I ran up to it, shared what I’d seen and the cop told me to hop in the back. (Only after I was inside the back of the cop car did I remember all the negative things I’ve read about the cops and hoped I’d made the right decision in trusting this fellow). We turned around and the ‘couple’ was still on the corner. The cop got out and approached them, talked to the man, they laid the woman down on the sidewalk because at this point she couldn’t stand. They searched for her ID. About ten minutes later the cop came back and drove me to the subway station to drop me off. Along the way he shared that the man said he was business colleagues with this woman’s husband. He had taken her out for a drink and she couldn’t hold her alcohol. End of story.
It’s debilitating. Maybe that cop will see that man again. Maybe the man’s story was true. Maybe that woman, because attention was brought to her, will be punished. Maybe a trafficker would never take a victim out in broad daylight. I don’t know.
This happened weeks ago but I remember it like it was just this afternoon. I’ve been waiting to write on it because I don’t know where to take it. What to take from it. How to move forward. But I’m glad the cop pulled around the corner. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do something.